After months of anticipation and high expectations, the day finally arrived as the Kevin Calabro era begins in Rip City. Damian Lillard and a strong showing by the second unit help pave the way to Portland's 16th straight home opener.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard with 39 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. The Utah Jazz were led by Rodney Hood with 26 points.
The Utah Jazz received a handful of favorable calls to begin the game, the refs' whistles getting into mid-season form early, resulting in Mason Plumlee and company getting into early foul trouble. But, the story of the quarter was a series of back-and-forth runs by both teams. The Jazz, sparked by George Hill, ran off a 13-2 run; Hill showing he is everything Utah had hoped for early on, scoring nine in the quarter. The Blazers countered with a 10-0 run of their own, capped off with an Allen Crabbe three off the bench. With neither team able to gather and keep momentum, the Blazers and Jazz were knotted up after one. Damian Lillard led the Blazers with seven points.
End of First: Portland 26, Utah 26
The Blazers opened the quarter on a 11-2 run. Crabbe and Noah Vonleh provided back-to-back threes to keep Portland perfect from beyond the arc (6-6), forcing an early Utah timeout. Portland's bench, looking every bit as deep as last season, not only held, but increased the lead until the starters were able to return. While Crabbe and Vonleh led the second unit charge, Evan Turner struggled in the first half of his debut. Portland's bench outscored Utah's second unit 21-9 for the half. CJ McCollum had a strong final stretch, finishing with 12 points. Lillard still led all scores with 16. Portland finished the half 7 of 8 from three land to Utah's 4 of 14. Rodney Hood led the Jazz with 15 points in the half.
Halftime: Portland 54, Utah 46
The Jazz again went on the attack against Plumlee and again, before he could even work up a sweat, Plumlee had to be relieved early with 4 personal fouls. Joe Johnson was huge in the quarter for Utah, his back-to-back threes gave the Jazz the lead; the Blazers, meanwhile, went cold and careless with the basketball. Johnson and Hood carried the Jazz to the lead going into the final quarter.
End of Third: Portland 77, Utah 83
Portland's bench again provided a much needed boost with Vonleh, Crabbe and Ed Davis revving up a stagnant offense. Turner, missing his first five shots, finally scored his first points as a Blazer, tying the game at 94. With a crunch time unit of Lillard, McCollum, Davis, Al-Farouq Aminu and Crabbe, and a search party out looking for Moe Harkless, the Blazers were able to wrestle the lead from the Jazz on a McCollum three with just under three minutes to go. Lillard's two free-throws gave Portland a four point lead with 1:30 to go. Lillard, backing up early MVP chants, then drilled a three to give the Blazers a 109-102 lead. But, because nothing can be easy, a late turnover kept the Jazz withing striking distance. But the Blazers are able to defend in the final moments to pull out the victory and begin the season with a win.
In the first rematch of last year's first round playoff series, the Blazers will host the L.A. Clippers on Thursday night at the Moda Center. Tip off is at 7:30 pm. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight, for extended analysis of this game from Dave Deckard.