The losing streak is over.
The short-handed Utah Jazz gave the also-short-handed Portland Trail Blazers everything they could handle tonight. But Portland fought back from an 11 point deficit after a shaky third quarter, and hit big shots down the stretch to grab a big win in Salt Lake City.
With this win and a blowout loss by Oklahoma City, Portland's magic number to win the Northwest Division is now six. Any combination of six Blazer wins or OKC losses will clinch the division.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard's 23 points, 12 assists and 7 rebounds. LaMarcus Aldridge added 19 points and 9 rebounds, and Dorell Wright had a big night off the bench with 15 points and 5 rebounds. Nicolas Batum and Chris Kaman missed the game due to injuries.
First Quarter: With Allen Crabbe starting for Batum, the Blazers opened the game with 5 first quarter turnovers, and 9 points in the first 11:30. Aldridge returned but struggled from the field. The Blazers eventually finished with 12 points, a low for the team all season. Utah used their inside presence to take control early, jumping to an early 10 point lead amidst the Blazer futility.
Score: Utah 21, Portland 12
This play is so bad sarcasm wont even help.
Second Quarter: Portland's bench opened with 5 quick points to give some hope, as Utah tried to keep control. But McCollum and Wright made big plays, and when Steve Blake nailed a corner three, the game was tied. By the halfway point of the quarter, Portland already scored more points than the entire first. As the starters returned though, Utah became more comfortable again. A quick 5 point run forced a Blazers timeout. The starters kept the score close, but couldn't stop Utah's inside game or running floaters. By "inside game", it can be loosely translated as "Derrick Favors". In fact, Favors' hobby in the first half was torching Blazers big men. He had 19 points and 7 rebounds by the half. Utah missed a few open shots late, and Portland went to the locker room within two, despite Aldridge and Lillard combining to shoot 2-13 for 6 points.
Well, after that first quarter, that wasn't so bad. Unfortunately watching my favorite pro-team has felt like an obligation rather than leisure lately
Halftime Score: Utah 39, Portland 37.
Third Quarter: Both teams struggled a bit to open the quarter, but Lillard's three-pointer pushed the Blazers into the lead. At this point, the game got increasingly chippy, as Utah swiped at Aldridge's hand and (strangely) tried to headbutt Robin's hand. As Utah's big men got in foul trouble, Portland's starters were able to hold a slim lead to the halfway point of the quarter.
That's when it all fell apart. Portland repeatedly turned the ball over for easy Jazz buckets, and gave up open three's on broken plays, and within minutes the Jazz took at 8 point lead, forcing a Blazer timeout. It didn't help, as the Blazers continued to turn the ball over on nearly every possession. They had 8 turnovers in the third alone, most of them late, handing Utah a 15-3 run. For Blazer fans, it was a brutal stretch to watch after such an awful week.
Goodness gracious. Time for someone to step up. I couldn’t care less who it is as long as they’re in red.
Score: Utah 65, Portland 55
Fourth Quarter: Lillard opened the quarter with free throws, but promptly gave up an open three-pointer at the other end to extend Utah's lead. But Dorell Wright stepped up. He hit consecutive three-pointers and assisted a Joel Freeland floater to cut the deficit back to 5. Portland moved to a small-ball lineup to try to catch Utah off guard, and was able to hold the deficit to 4 on a huge Lillard dunk. Shortly after, Allen Crabbe's three-ponter cut it to three. Utah fed off a steady diet of foul calls in the fourth, and kept their slim lead. The Blazers had two chances to tie, but Lillard and Wright missed three-pointers. Portland couldn't get defensive stops, and Utah stayed comfortably ahead as the game hit the two minute mark. Utah's offensive rebounding came up big against Portland's small-ball lineup, and often cleaned up any missed shots.
As the click ticked under 2, things heated up fast. Aldridge's offensive rebound and bucket cut the deficit to two, and after Utah missed a contested layup, Lillard broke down court, hitting a layup while getting fouled. Portland took a 1 point lead with 90 seconds to go. The teams traded buckets, then traded misses, leaving Utah with possession at the 30 second mark. They missed, and Portland took control. Utah chose not to foul, leading to Gobert goaltending Aldridge's layup for a three point Blazer lead with 6.1 seconds left.
Portland intentionally fouled with 4.7 seconds left, and Utah missed the second free throw intentionally. After a rough rebounding exchange, Aldridge was fouled with a chance to ice the game with 2.8 seconds left. He only hit one, and Utah had a chance to tie with 2.0 seconds left. They got the ball to Favors, who had one more chance to burn the Blazers... and the three-pointer banked, bounced around, and bounced out. The Blazers' losing streak is over.
A much-needed day off for the Blazers, in the midst of their last "4 games in 5 nights" stretch. Unfortunately, it will be spent traveling to Phoenix, a virtual house of horrors where the Suns await.
"It was hurting. But it wasn't too much to deal with." - @aldridge_12 on his injured index finger— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) March 26, 2015
Nic Batum said he wanted to play but team doctors wouldn't let him. Spent game with heating pad after his back tightened up after warm ups.— Mike Richman (@mikegrich) March 26, 2015
Dame, when did you decide it was time to take over? "Once the fourth quarter started."— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) March 26, 2015
4th qtr, Freeland said it was Wright who spoke up. Dorell said he felt something needed to be said #Blazers— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung) March 26, 2015
We needed this win. Congrats guys.— Nicolas Batum (@nicolas88batum) March 26, 2015
Said Wright on his speaking up in the 4th: "I thought it was the appropriate time." #Blazers.— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung) March 26, 2015