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Blazers’ Defense Flounders In 30-Point Loss To Jazz

Portland’s three-game winning streak came to an end with a loss to Utah on Friday.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

The Trail Blazers suffered their first loss at home in December by falling to the Jazz 120-90. Utah set the tone early by torching the nets with a near-perfect performance from beyond the arc. Playing from behind for the majority of the game, Portland’s cast of contributors struggled to keep pace. The Jazz’s offense moved the ball efficiently, controlled the pace, and frustrated the Blazers in the paint. Despite trailing by double-digits for long stretches, coach Terry Stotts’ squad was feisty until the starters left the court. It was a rough loss, but Portland will get a chance at revenge on Christmas.

The Australian Menace

Jazz forward Joe Ingles kept the Blazers off balance for the majority of the game. He notched nine points in the first quarter, and sent Maurice Harkless back to the bench with two early fouls. Ingles couldn’t miss from beyond the arc, and he sliced to the heart of Portland’s defense at will. Both results paid dividends for Utah’s offense.

The Jazz’s unbelievable three-point shooting cooled in the final minutes of the second quarter, which allowed the Blazers to cut the lead to single-digits. Unfortunately for Portland, Ricky Rubio picked up where Ingles left off. After a quiet start to the game, Rubio exploded for 16 points in the third quarter. The Blazers’ brief ray of light quickly dimmed when the Jazz started firing on all cylinders.

Utah finished the contest with a 51.6 three-point percentage, and produced 35 assists as a team.

Communication Breakdown

The Jazz’s offense didn’t need any assistance tonight, but the Blazers still insisted on lending a helping hand. Portland’s defense looked lost for long stretches, and Utah easily took advantage by finishing wide-open looks in the paint. Led by Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, the Jazz outscored the Blazers 52-34 in the paint.

Along with the problems in the post, Portland’s defenders seemed a step slow on the perimeter. Utah added even more pressure by consistently using Gobert on perimeter screens, which left Jusuf Nurkic stranded inside. The Blazers didn’t have an answer for the Jazz’s ball movement. Period.

Six different Utah players registered multiple assists, and five players recorded multiple three-pointers.

Focused on the Flaws

On defense, the Jazz did an excellent job of forcing the ball into the hands of the Blazers’ role players. Coach Quin Snyder’s scheme was focused on harassing Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on the perimeter. The pressure amplified on the backcourt duo as Portland’s supporting cast failed to earn Utah’s respect. In the end, Lillard and McCollum combined for a pedestrian 31 points.

Forgettable Frontcourt

After a strong start to December, Al-Farouq Aminu has failed to reach double-digits in his last three games. The Jazz’s defense was focused on sending help toward the Blazers’ pick-and-roll plays, which left Aminu wide open from outside. He was unable to take advantage of those favorable looks, and connected on just one of his six three-point attempts.

Harkless was on the court for just over three minutes in the first quarter before he had to leave the game with foul trouble. He never established a rhythm once he returned, and recorded just four points in the loss.

Zach Collins looked rushed on offense throughout the night. He went 2-8 from the field, and missed all three of his three-point attempts.

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The Blazers will return to action on Sunday when they host the Mavericks.

—Steve / @SteveDHoops /