The Portland Trail Blazers turned in a gritty performance in Monday night’s 109-104 comeback victory over the Utah Jazz, snapping the team’s six-game winning streak in the process. The win also enacts a measure of revenge for Portland—after getting shellacked by the Jazz in the teams’ prior two meetings this season, including a nationally televised drubbing on Christmas night. Damian Lillard was the high-man for Portland, finishing with 26 points, while Donovan Mitchell paced the Jazz with 36 points of his own.
After a tightly contested first quarter, the Jazz jumped out to a double-digit lead in the second before the Blazers trimmed the halftime deficit to seven points. Things turned around for Portland in an emotional third quarter, led by Jusuf Nurkic, as they outscored the Jazz by 11 in the frame to take a four-point lead into the game’s final stanza. In the fourth, the Blazers bench extended the lead before the starters returned and held off a furious Jazz rally, sparked by Mitchell, to hold on for the win.
Nurk Comes Alive
After a rough second quarter for the Blazers, in which they scored only 15 points, things started getting chippy in the third quarter. The chippiness worked to Portland’s advantage, as Nurkic successful got into the head of both Jae Crowder and Rudy Gobert, who both picked up technical fouls. Nurk played off of their emotion to take over the game, putting the team on his back and nearly single-handedly swinging the pendulum of momentum into Portland’s favor.
All told, the Bosnian Beast finished with 22 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and six blocks on the night. His defensive presence was especially felt during his big run in the third, as three of those blocks—on the 7’1” Gobert none the less—coming during that decisive stretch. His energy was infectious, and helped get his teammates on track as well.
Bench Brings the Heat
The Blazers bench deserves a lot of credit for picking up right where Nurkic left off to start the fourth quarter, expanding on the lead they inherited. The second-unit, sparked by the scorching Jake Layman, put the team in excellent position to finish off the game, despite the fact that Utah made things interesting down the stretch.
Layman turned in another phenomenal performance with 12 point on 5-9 shooting, in addition to active defense on the other end of the court. He wasn’t alone however, as Evan Turner added 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists of his own, while Meyers Leonard scored eight points on 3-4 shooting, knocking down both of his three point attempts.
Moving the Ball
The Blazers eclipsed the 30-assist mark for the fourth time this season, led by the eight of Lillard. The fluid ball movement led to solid shot attempts, which the team was able to knock down. Portland finished 50% from the field and an impressive 44% from beyond the three-point line. In addition, despite all the passing, the Blazers committed only eight turnovers on the night—well below their season average.
More History Made
Lillard passed Terry Porter for the fourth-most field goals made in franchise history with a second quarter floater. He now has 4,008 made buckets on his career. Next up is Jim Paxson, who finished with 4,058 in a Blazers uniform.
The Other Guys
CJ McCollum bounced back from a dismal, foul-hampered first half—in which he only scored two points, to finish with 14 points (6-17 shooting), four rebounds and four assists. He knocked down a big three down the stretch that helped the team keep their disappearing lead.
Al-Farouq Aminu had eight points and six boards on an efficient 4-6 shooting night, in addition to his customary stout defensive effort.
Maurice Harkless, who started for the second straight night in his return from injury, got off to a hot start, but only tallied 18 minutes (Layman had 25) and finished with six points on 3-3 shooting.
Zach Collins went 0-4 in 11 minutes, taking a back seat to Nurkic and Leonard.
The Blazers head south to Oklahoma City for a meeting with the Thunder tomorrow night.