The Jazz handed the Trail Blazers their third loss in four games on Thursday. Thanks to a 40-point third quarter, Utah secured a double-digit lead and did not look back en route to a 122-103 victory. For the Jazz, Donovan Mitchell glided through the heart of the Blazers’ defense for 37 points in 33 minutes.
For the Blazers, they can hang their hat on a solid first half. Unfortunately, that did not hold up in the third quarter. Individually, Damian Lillard finished with 23 points and six assists before exiting halfway through the fourth quarter.
The Blazers defense did not prevent the Jazz from getting to their spots, but Portland’s peskiness did enough to disrupt Utah’s rhythm. Jusuf Nurkic, Norman Powell and Robert Covington all managed to poke the ball free in the opening frame—paving the way for easy looks on the opposite end of the floor. Offensively, the Blazers did an excellent job of pushing the pace early in possessions. Thanks to that pace, the Jazz were forced to navigate hastily-assembled cross matchups.
The Jazz still found open lanes and frequently stepped into their outside shots with little interference, but they couldn’t convert enough open looks to generate a multi-possession lead. The Jazz finished the first quarter with a slim 30-29 advantage.
Both teams turned back the clock to a prior era in the second quarter and focused on inside-the-arc offense. Seriously, the Jazz recorded a single three-pointer and the Blazers only converted four in the frame. For Portland, Nassir Little made a splash on both ends of the court. The second-year forward logged just four minutes, but he swung the momentum in the Blazers’ direction with well-timed individual defense and efficient offense.
With just over three minutes remaining in the half, the Blazers shifted to an ultra-small lineup. Despite Rudy Gobert’s towering presence in the paint, the Jazz were caught flat footed. Portland’s tiny rotation erupted for a 7-0 run, giving the Blazers a 54-46 advantage before Mitchell finally interrupted the run with a midrange bucket. Thanks to improved defense and controlled half-court sets, the Blazers entered halftime with a 56-53 lead.
The Jazz shook off the rust during the halftime break and hit the ground running in the third quarter. Defensively, they expertly funneled Lillard into extra pressure and generated turnovers in the process. On the other end of the court, Mitchell carved up the mushy center of the Blazers’ non-existent defense. On the glass, the Jazz added fuel to their lead with an 11-rebound advantage in the third quarter.
The Blazers once again turned to their small lineup, but the Jazz were ready this time. Utah notched 40 points in third quarter and held Portland to 19. Thanks to that margin, the Jazz entered the fourth quarter with a 18-point edge.
Buoyed by the positive momentum that was generated in the third quarter, the Jazz continued to cruise in the final frame. The Blazers’ offense did pick up that pace, but it was not enough to meaningfully cut into the double-digit deficit that they faced. Down by 20 with just under five minutes left in the game, coach Terry Stotts turned to the reserves in garbage time.
Stay tuned for our extended analysis of the Blazers’ 19-point loss to the Jazz later tonight.