The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard (28 points, 7 assists), Robin Lopez (12 points, a career-high 18 rebounds) and Wesley Matthews (24 points). Nicolas Batum (3 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) missed half the game due to illness, but played a key role in the fourth quarter.
First Half: Woof. The Blazers looked like a Summer League team, as Head Coach Terry Stotts played 11 of the 12 available players. Neither team played cohesively on offense, or defense, leading to a terrible 16-15 score at the end of the first quarter. In the second, most fans were probably thinking, "I miss LaMarcus Aldridge," as the struggles continued. Light defense, little ball moment, lots of isolation play, and only one three-pointer. The Blazers set up for the final shot of the half, but somehow instead gave up a Lopez foul for two Utah free throws to keep things close. Portland shot zero free throws in the entire half.
Portland 43, Utah 39
Third Quarter: Utah quickly took the lead, as Robin Lopez picked up his third foul early. Stotts tried to get Lopez out for minutes, but could not do so, and he picked up his fourth foul before it happened. He was stuck on the bench for a while, as the Blazers dove completely into small-ball. Utah responded by going on a run for a 5 point lead. CJ McCollum hit a three, but Utah scored 6 straight points to pull ahead by 8. Portland fought back, but the Jazz started hitting all their shots, easily keeping them at bay through the end of the quarter.
This is tied neck-and-neck for "worst quarter of the season to watch" with the first quarter of this same game.
Utah 73, Portland 64
Fourth Quarter: Lopez returned, and the Blazers immediately went on a run, closing to within two in the first two minutes. Lillard waved everyone off on the next possession and calmly launched a three. Swish, and the Blazers took the lead. Batum came up big for the Blazers as they maintained a slim lead, picking up their defense to deny the previously easy shots the Jazz were seeing. Lillard's point streak reached 11, and Portland's lead reached 6. Utah hit consecutive three-pointers to keep it close with 4 minutes left, but Lillard responded with another three of his own. As the clock ticked down to two minutes, Matthews' free throws, combined with a Lopez tip-in, gave the Blazers a 7 point lead. But Utah wouldn't go away, as they scored on consecutive possessions to make it a 3 point Blazer lead with 1:20 left. After a tough shooting night, Mo Williams finally hit a jumper to make it 5. After a Utah miss, Mo had a chance to seal it with a three, but missed. Lopez tipped it back to Mo, who was fouled immediately. He bounced in the free throws for a 7 point lead with 25 seconds left. Utah had no comebacks left, and Lopez finished them off with a celebratory dunk on the break. The Blazers left the court feeling lucky to pick up a victory.
Another day of rest (and recovery for Batum), before the Timberwolves arrive in town Sunday evening.
Stay tuned tonight for Dave's analysis, and the Media Row Report from Ben.
Thanks to everyone who participated in tonight's Gameday Thread! Unfortunately the comment tools are broken tonight, so no list of the best comments. Which is a shame! Carry on all! -- Tim