The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard with 21 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds and 2 steals in just 29 minutes. He never entered the fourth quarter. CJ McCollum added 15 points and 8 assists, and Gerald Henderson, Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard and Al-Farouq Aminu also scored in double figures.
This was the best first quarter of high school basketball I have seen this year. Both teams struggled offensively as the Jazz and Blazers hovered around 30% and 20% for much of the first quarter. Rudy Gobert of the Jazz was making his presence felt early as the Blazers were afraid to take any shot attempts near the paint. Even on put backs, Mason Plumlee made like there was a scary clown just below the rim and dared not to take step further, missing on consecutive offensive rebounds. Portland turned up the pressure defensively after 1 of 11 start from the field, forcing turnovers from the Utah guards as the Blazers found some offense in transition. Neither team could crack 20 as the period ended.
End of First: Portland 18, Utah 19
The Blazers and Jazz worked together on building a new brewery block with the collection of bricks they continued to pile up during the quarter. The Jazz continued their methodical pace on offense, milking the clock deep into single digits any chance they got. Portland kept trying to pick up the pace offensively, but when that wasn't producing points it was producing sloppy passes and turnovers, luckily the Jazz were contributing their fair share of slop. Gerald Henderson came off the bench for Portland to deliver a needed jolt of offense but nothing seemed to come easy, even when Gobert came out of the game after receiving a flagrant foul late in the quarter when he elbowed Plumlee in the face for whispering sweet nothings into his ear. The half came to close on a fittingly sloppy in-bounds play from Portland. However, the Blazers found themselves in good shape heading into the second half thanks to decent play by the bench and hearty helping of second chance points, but the fans' chance at winning free fries was in serious jeopardy.
Halftime: Portland 43, Utah 37
The Blazers continued to push the pace, opening the half with an 8-0 run. Portland pushed the lead to double digits, even while the Jazz defense continued to plug things up near the paint. The Blazers finally found some offense from outside as Lillard had visions of the Thunder dancing through his head. The tempo for both teams raised drastically, producing a much more pleasing brand of basketball visually. Lillard was dishing the ball about as well as he has all year while Al-Farouq Aminu was seemingly everywhere on both offense and defense, his energy becoming contagious for the rest of the Blazers. Portland was much less intimidated by the Jazz' interior defense which led to a much more aggressive Blazers team. The period was highlighted by a must-see Lillard to McCollum to Aminu fast-break dunk. Lillard was flirting with a triple double with 21 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds entering the fourth.
End of Third: Portland 77, Utah 62
Utah never made a serious charge in the fourth quarter, as the Blazers stayed ahead by as many as 20 points. Lillard never needed to return to the game, and the crowd was left to cheer for Chris Kaman's jump hook, and boo as the Blazers stalled at 99 points. The fans left nonetheless happy.
The Blazers head out to the east coast for a three game trip starting with the Brooklyn Nets on Friday. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight, for extended analysis of this game from Dave Deckard.