It’s been a few years since the Portland Trail Blazers played on Christmas, the most prestigious day in the NBA’s regular season. After Tuesday’s 117-96 shellacking from the Utah Jazz, it will probably be a while before they get another chance to do so. Despite 20 points from Damian Lillard, who led all scorers in the game, the Blazers were dominated by Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, as the Jazz blew them out for the second time in a week.
Portland was actually able to hang with Utah early, thanks to poor shooting from the Jazz, who missed 10 free throws in the first half, as well as their first eight three-point attempts. However, the Jazz found their rhythm in the second quarter, and took a 12-point lead into the break. They maintained the lead throughout the second half, and despite a couple of modest runs from the Blazers, ultimately pulled away for good midway through the fourth quarter without breaking much of a sweat.
How the Jazz Stole Christmas
Utah won this game thanks to a terrific effort on both ends of the court. Despite the slow start offensively, they had a huge second quarter, outscoring Portland 35-23 after the teams were tied at the end of the first period. The Jazz did a tremendous job of moving without the ball, and used excellent, unselfish ball movement to find the open shooter, ripping the Blazers defense to shreds. They finished the game shooting 45% from distance, even after starting 0-8. The Jazz were also able to dominate in the paint, forcing the Blazers to stay honest and not home in on the perimeter.
Of Utah’s 40 rebounds, nine were offensive—including four each from Gobert and Derrick Favors—leading to a bevy of second chance opportunities they were able to capitalize on. On defense, they used active hand and stout rim protection, which, coupled with cold shooting from the Blazers, led to tough sledding for Portland on the offensive end of the floor.
Rudy Shines Bright
Gobert had his hand prints all over this game, finishing with 18 points, 14 rebounds and an astounding seven of the team’s ten blocks. He was a monster on both ends of the floor and without a doubt the MVP of the game. The Stifle Tower benefited greatly from Jusuf Nukic being in foul trouble throughout the night, and the Blazers never really had an answer for him. He shot an extremely efficient 7-10 from the field on the night, while acting as the anchor of Utah’s tremendous defensive attack.
Spida Man Returns
Mitchell recovered nicely from his 1-10 shooting performance against the Blazers on Friday night to lead the Jazz with 19 points on 8-18 shooting. While the team went through their three-point shooting drought, he was able to shoulder the offensive load, setting the tone early and scoring 15 of his points in the first half, before the other shooters got rolling in the second half.
Lillard scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half, and also registered five rebounds and four assists.
Nurkic, hampered by foul trouble all night long, had seven points and 10 rebounds, going 3-10 from the field.
CJ McCollum had 11 points, but struggled mightily shooting, going 4-14 on the night.
Al-Farouq Aminu scored 11 points and pulled down seven boards, while also picking up three steals.
Moe Harkless got off to a great start, including a thunderous dunk in the early going, but shot just 2-8 overall and finished with six points and four rebounds.
Evan Turner (12/3/3), Zach Collins (10/3) and Seth Curry (eight points) led the bench effort, with the latter providing a big spark early in the fourth quarter, giving the team some life and keeping the game within shouting distance.
The Blazers head to the Bay Area for the first of a home-and-home with the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night from Oracle Arena.