The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Utah Jazz, 130-98, at the Moda Center on Friday night, improving their record to 17-3.
A writer needs a scalpel for some games, while others demand only a hammer. This Jazz basketball recap is brought to you by True Value hardware.
This was nothing more than an unstoppable force overwhelming an invisible object, as the NBA's No. 1 offense made light, record-setting work of the NBA's second-worst defense. The official time of death was listed as "pretty much right after tip off" and the more exact answer might have been whenever Trey Burke's ankles transformed into Silly Putty as he tried to defend a Damian Lillard drive. Believe that Utah made this one interesting in the second quarter if you would like -- Tyrone Corbin did and he would probably appreciate anyone else joining him -- but this was a laugher start to finish. Portland was up 20 early in the second quarter, up 30 just after the midway point of the third, and up 40 early in the fourth quarter.
Not only did the Blazers set a franchise-record by making 17 three-pointers and set an NBA-record for best three-point shooting percentage with at least 15 makes (73.9 percent on 17-for-23 shooting), but they also held every single one of Utah's 2014 Draft Lottery Ping Pong Balls scoreless.
Day-dreaming is just impossible to avoid in a game like this. To think: Portland could have played Nolan Smith -- at his absolute worst, Last Year's Bucks Game-esque levels -- for roughly five full minutes and still won this game comfortably. To think: Portland could have agreed to erase the three-point line on their end while allowing Utah to keep their three-point line and still won by 15 points. To think: Free McMuffins were secured with 13:47 remaining in the game. To think: Lillard didn't attempt a field goal in the second half and he outscored every member of the Jazz. To think: Portland's starters shot 65.2 percent combined on the night. To think: Meyers Leonard played more minutes in the fourth quarter (12) than he had played in the entire season combined entering Friday (7), and Allen Crabbe played more than double his previous season total of 5 by playing 11 minutes in the fourth. To think: Portland more than tripled Utah's scoring output in the third quarter (40-13). To think: This paragraph went on twice as long as I originally planned because I kept finding more ridiculous things.
All of that together in succession like that was probably a bit over the top but at least I'm not diagramming intentional ricochets off the rim.
"I was pleased with how we did it," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said of the win. "It's all part of the process. It's the first time we've put a team away relatively early and it's good to do that once in awhile."
The Blazers' 32-point margin of victory more than doubled their previous high (15 points against the Denver Nuggets during the season game of the year), and that still undersells the one-sidedness of this one. Utah applied some lipstick to the pork with a 10-0 closing run, and by that point even Portland's second-unit guys were taking advantage of garbage time.
"Veteran teams, good teams, playoff teams, that's what they do," Dorell Wright said of the door-closing. "I like when we're over there icing down and young guys are getting an opportunity to play."
Portland's red hot three-point shooting this year -- currently ranked No. 1 in the league -- might be having a dulling effect. I can't say I ever thought I would sit through a 17-for-23 three-point shooting performance, and I definitely can't say that I ever thought I would sit through a ho-hum 17-for-23 three-point shooting performance. This wasn't a matter of one-footed miracles and amazing luck; this was an assembly line production of treys putting a mom and pop defense out of business.
"A little bit of everything," Blazers guard Wesley Matthews told Blazersedge, when asked what created the video game numbers. "Open shots, rhythm, flow of the game. Whenever we pass the ball, we can almost predict when the other person is going to make that shot. We know when that ball is coming, we know when the shot is coming, rhythm shots are what you practice all the time."
That was an unintentional way of saying this was basically target practice.
"I guess we have to get out to the shooters better," Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said. "I don't think it's a lack of effort. They snowballed on us."
Matthews finished with a game-high 24 points (on 8-for-11 shooting and 4-for-6 three-point shooting), and Lillard added 5-for-6 shooting from deep in the first half on his way to 21 points. Might as well just go right down the list on the threes: Nicolas Batum (3-for-3), Wright (2-for-3), Crabbe (2-for-2) Mo Williams (1-for-1).
"We have a lot of good shooters in here," Wright told Blazersedge. "Guys move the ball in here, guys are really into the hockey assist. If you have a good shot, pass it to the guy with the better shot. Good teams do that. If [we want to] continue to shoot the ball like this, play well, and get wins, that's what it's going to take."
Indeed, 11 of the 17 three-pointers were assisted, and the ball kept moving throughout the game, even during the fourth quarter when the bench was emptied.
"You don't expect to shoot that well obviously but more importantly, our threes are in rhythm, they're good shots for the guys taking them," Stotts said. "When those guys are taking open threes, there's a good chance they'll go in."
That's really all there was to it. A 10-0 run to open the third period sealed this one tight.
"We knew that we were kind of coasting," LaMarcus Aldridge told Blazersedge, describing Portland's 67-point (!) first half. "We weren't playing our kind of basketball, we weren't really fired up. We tried to come out in the third quarter and just be better, and we did."
Overall, the Blazers were pleased, in a muted way, that they had taken care of business early with a back-to-back against the Dallas Mavericks looming on Saturday.
"We're at our best when we come at you with waves of different people at different times," Matthews said, and not even the saltiest lake could have kept the Jazz afloat during this one.
Random Game Notes
The attendance was announced at 19,833. Not a sellout. Late-arrivers and early-departers as you would expect.
Here are the game highlights via the Blazers...
Huge confession time: I made a crucial error this week. I underestimated the power of the Chalupa. I haven't been this disappointed in myself in awhile. During both the game against Indiana and the game against Oklahoma City, there was no Ronald McDonald on the jumbotron instructing people to chant "Mick-ee-dee's" as the Blazers approached 100 points. I assumed during both games that the instructions were absent because the games were really close and it was better to not have the distraction.
Wrong! The plot thickens! As Portland secured the free McMuffins in the third quarter with a 30+ point lead, there was still no "Mick-ee-dee's" chant instructions! The only logical conclusion here is that the force of the Cha-Lu-Pa chant killed Ronald McDonald and the "Mick-ee-dee's" chant instructions! Incredible! For the record, the "Mick-ee-dee's" chant, which was hyped in a press release, lasted just seven games!
Even without the instructions, many fans still chanted "Cha-Lu-Pa." Of course, it wasn't nearly as loud as the protest chanting that came down whenever Ronald McDonald was encouraging the new chant. Putting two and two together here, it seems as if perhaps the Blazers might be trying to take the steam out of the "Cha-Lu-Pa" protest chants by encouraging silence and making it a non-event until the actual goodies are delivered. Amazing!!!! What a capitulation. And, yes, actually pretty smart because it eliminates the distraction and also protects their new sponsor a bit.
What can I say at this point except keep chanting Cha-Lu-Pa at full volume? This is all hilarious. What a game within the game we have going on.
I've been told the "Mick-ee-dee's" chant isn't necessarily 100 percent officially dead forever. Don't worry, that means I will continue to devote way too much time and ink to this topic.
- Blazers president Chris McGowan delivered one of my all-time favorite quotes when he defended the McMuffin during his City Club of Portland luncheon on Friday: "Although it's not a Chalupa, it's still something people like."
- Anyway, sign of the night: "U-came, U-tah, U-lose."
- Another good sign had the red Angry Bird serving as the "O" in Robin (Lopez), which is pretty deep. Another good sign: "Mo Williams, Mo Problems." Another good sign: "Legion of Batum."
- Fun story from Steve Duin of The Oregonian, who nerded out with Robin Lopez over some comic books.
- Wesley Matthews said that the Blazers players basically ran the halftime show: "We came in and governed ourselves, before coach Stotts even got in here. We were talking to ourselves, we knew what we had to do and we did what we were supposed to."
- Damian Lillard scored Portland's first eight points of the game against Jazz rookie guard Trey Burke, and he had 21 points by halftime. Lillard finished with 21 points and six assists. Burke had seven points and one assist and he sat for almost the entire second half. Lillard: "It's never a personal match-up, one-on-one. I'm going to try to do better for my team better than he does so we can win the game. ... I was aware of him coming in, I knew he would probably want to get the best of me, I wanted to make sure I was aggressive."
- Lillard said that his mind "doesn't work like that" when asked if he was trying to build a lead so the starters could rest for Saturday. He also praised the bench guys: "They all played well. With the lead being at 40, guys could have easily played loose, had turnovers, not been aggressive, things like that. They played aggressive, they played defense, they kept executing our offense. It took some character to go out there and do that in a blowout game. It's hard to go out there and still be yourself, and do what we've been doing for a full game. I give a lot of credit to everybody that was out there."
- Wright on Portland's momentum: "We're real hot right now. We're buying into the system. We pay attention to our gameplan. We're going out there and competing. Guys are hungry in here. Lots of guys want to get to those playoffs. When you're on a team and you're not winning, it makes the season a lot longer. This is fun."
- Mo Williams was initially whistled for a flagrant foul for shoving Jeremy Evans out of the air but video replays indicated that the skinny Evans was likely the victim of a gust of a wind and the call was downgraded to a personal foul.
- PA announcer Mark Mason gave a "Three D-Wright Way" for Dorell Wright's first three-pointer. Not sure if I've mentioned that call before. Not bad.
- "MVP" chants for LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished with 20 point and 15 rebounds, on multiple occasions during this game. Multiple MVP signs in the crowd too, including one that took a "Who needs LeBron?" angle. Everyone likes to be appreciated.
- Meyers Leonard had a......... rough go......... in his first extended action of the season. At one point he drew chuckles and then groans on back-to-back possessions. "Rust" is a good, polite descriptor so we'll go with that.
- There is dedication to your job and then there is going through a clear-path foul video review with a 41-point difference on the scoreboard. Wow. Delay of game technical foul on the officiating crew.
- Blazers forward Nicolas Batum honored Nelson Mandela with a Sharpie tribute on his sneakers. Here's a photo on Twitter via Chris Elise. There was also a moment of silence for Mandela before the game.
- Brian Kroll sent in this great story that he shared on Facebook about a random act of kindness that occurred at the Moda Center during the game. Please read it.
- In case you missed these earlier Friday: Blazers president Chris McGowan discussed a host of topics, Blazers coach Terry Stotts gave multiple interviews, and I pulled together a bunch of links with the help of some great FanShots.
I'm doing an "AMA" with the Reddit NBA community next week. Details here.
Terry Stotts' Post-Game Comments
I really liked the urgency that we came out and played with at the beginning of the game and the beginning of the second half. We did a lot of good things, obviously we shot the ball well, shot the three well. More importantly, the way we played defensively in the third quarter was what we needed. The first half defense wasn't what we need to do, but we tightened it up in the second half. We scored a lot of points and all that, but the transition from our defense in the second quarter to the third quarter was what we were looking for.
Halftime speech or did players handle adjustments themselves?
It was a little bit of everything. We talked about it, how we needed to play defensively. Unfortunately when the offense comes easily there's a tendency to let up on defense. We knew we had a game tomorrow night. We knew what we needed to do defensively. Play with urgency, we're pretty good. If we don't, teams are going to score on us.
17-for-23 three-point shooting
According to my crack media relations staff it's never been done. It's some kind of record. I'll let him tell you what the record is, but it's a record.
Thoughts on three-point shooting
We're good shooters. Our three-pointers are good three-point shooters. That's not surprising. You don't expect to shoot that well obviously but more importantly, our threes are in rhythm, they're good shots for the guys taking them. When those guys are taking open threes, there's a good chance they'll go in.
Strong third quarters. Why?
I don't know. It's hard to say. It's important coming out of the locker room at halftime, it's a shorter game. When you come out at halftime it's a 24-minute game. I don't know if we played with a little bit more urgency or not. The third quarter is a very important quarter, it sets the tone for the rest of the half.
Deep reserves got a chance to play
I liked all of their energy. They really did a nice job, all the guys that played in the fourth quarter, they built the lead up to 42. They passed the ball, they played hard defensively. We didn't score the last three minutes so that kind of skewed things a little bit. I thought Will, Allen, Meyers, T-Rob. Earl did a nice job of running the team, orchestrating the young guys, I was very pleased.
Rest guys for Saturday night
That's in the back of our mind. Knowing that we had a back-to-back against a good team. To be able to keep everybody under 30 minutes, you like to be able to do that. We've played well on the second night of back-to-backs, even when they played big minutes, but when you can get your starters the rest, that's great.
Confidence-builder, put team away?
Yes. Look, we've got Utah again on Monday. I don't necessarily say it's a statement game, but it's a game we needed to win. I was pleased with how we did it. It's all part of the process. It's the first time we've put a team away relatively early and it's good to do that once in awhile.
Damian Lillard's hot start
Shots were there and he took them. By design? The way we play, if the opportunities are there, the players take them. When you pass the ball and get good shots, they go in.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter