The loss lowers Portland to 38-40 on the season, now tied in the loss column and just 1⁄2 game ahead of the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference. Denver defeated the New Orleans Pelicans tonight, eliminating them from the running and reducing the race for the playoffs to just the Blazers and Nuggets over the final stretch of the regular season.
The Blazers were led by C.J. McCollum (25 points, 6 rebounds) and Damian Lillard (16 points, 3 assists) but were largely outmanned by a Jazz squad missing three regular starers in George Hill, Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors.
The Jazz were led by Gordon Hayward (30 points, 4 rebounds) and Rudy Gobert (20 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks).
It was an awful start for the Blazers as Utah got out in front early, scoring the first 11 points of the game and putting Portland on early notice that it would be a difficult evening.
Rudy Gobert was front and center to a majority of what went well for the Jazz, punishing the Blazers lack of size in the post and nearly shutting down the same area defensively. He also did not miss a shot tonight - going 6-6 from the floor and 8-10 from the foul line for 20 frustratingly efficient points.
Portland didn’t get its first bucket until Al-Farouq Aminu’s flip almost five minutes into the contest and stayed cold for most of opening period. Events could have easily progressed into dangerous territory if Utah took better care of the ball - instead, the Jazz coughed up the rock up seven times and failed to take a commanding lead.
At the 4:04 mark in the first quarter, the Jazz led 15-6 but the Blazers started to find some rhythm, scoring 11 points over the next four minutes and pulling within seven.
Then it was Utah’s turn to go cold - the Jazz struggled throughout much of the second and even momentarily ceded the lead to Portland at 31-30 on C.J. McCollum’s layup for two if his 14 points in the half.
Portland’s reign didn’t last long, handing it back on the next possession after Shelvin Mack’s jumper. The Blazers sort of yo-yo’d the rest of the way, heading into the locker room down a manageable seven points.
Portland Trail Blazers 41, Utah Jazz 47
Unfortunately for Portland, it was mostly downhill coming out of the locker room. Damian Lillard started to get his offense going towards the end of the third quarter to join McCollum, but it wasn’t enough to stick with the Jazz. Utah broke out of its funk and dominated the Blazers the rest of the way. Gordon Hayward found his stroke and by the time the fourth started to roll around, Portland looked out of gas with a comeback unlikely.
Here’s a nice Meyers Leonard hook shot though:
The Blazers get a day off before a rematch with the Minnesota Timberwolves Thursday, this time at the Moda Center with late TNT game tip set for 7:30 p.m.
-- Ryan Rosback | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter