The Portland Trail Blazers barely managed to get out of Utah with a win over the Jazz on Saturday night. The 116-111 win in Salt Lake City stops a three game skid and hopefully marks a turning point for a Blazers team who had lost eight of their last ten heading into this game.
The Blazers jumped out to an early lead, holding a nine point lead after the first quarter. They kept that lead consistent until half time, but the Jazz came alive in the second half to give the Blazers a challenge late in this game. Anfernee Simons lead the game in scoring with a career high 45 point effort.
The Utah Jazz were led by Jordan Clarkson who finished with 24 points, and had four other players score at least 15 points in the team effort.
For a breakdown by quarter of tonight’s game, check out our instant recap. These were some of the main takeaways from the win tonight.
It was mentioned before, but it can not be overstated how good Anfernee Simons was tonight. He had a career high points in a quarter with 23 points in the first. He scored a Blazers franchise record 33 points in the first half on his way to a career high 45 points. Simons made seven threes, was perfect on eight free throw attempts, and shot 60% from the field overall in his explosive performance.
Tale Of Two Halves
The Blazers looked unbeatable in the first half, at least on offense. They were scoring at will, and taking care of the ball while doing it. They turned the ball over just three times in the half while forcing more than a few Jazz mistakes to jump out to a lead that grew as big as fifteen points.
However, the Jazz immediately turned the tide by scoring seven points in the first minute and a half of the second half to cut the Blazers early advantage. The Blazers were able to hold on and win despite sloppy play late in the game. The Blazers turned the ball over a whopping ten times in the second half, and the Jazz were able to capitalize to the tune of 14 points off turnovers for the game.
When Are The Reinforcements Coming?
The Blazers big three of Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant, and Jusuf Nurkic combined for an incredible 93 points this game. Nurkic also chipped in 14 rebounds, including five offensive boards. The rest of the Blazers scored just 23 points. With two starters and a key backup being held out of this game in Damian Lillard, Josh Hart, and Drew Eubanks, the Blazers did what they could with what they had and mustered up a win. However, it is easy to see this game ending in a loss if even just one of Simons, Grant, or Nurkic was a bit more inefficient.
The Blazers hope that this is the beginning of the end for their recent skid as they look to get some of those names off the injury report moving forward. There are a lot of valuable role players on the Blazers roster, but when big name scorers are missing, it is easy for an offense to become stagnant for stretches. Grant and Simons have both been playing at or near all star level, and with Lillard coming back, the Blazers should turn out just fine.
Limiting Ball Movement
The Blazers held the Jazz to just 20 assists tonight, a great performance limiting a Jazz team that relies on scoring by committee. Stopping the ball from flying around the court helped the Blazers limit the amount of open looks the Jazz got from three and around the rim. The Blazers won points in the paint battle, and shot better from three. There were more than a few times this game where the Jazz were forced to take a low percentage shot late in the shot clock due to an unproductive offensive possession.
On the other side, the Blazers only had 19 assists to their name. However, that number is a lot less concerning when factoring in how much players like Anfernee Simons and Jerami Grant create their own shot rather than getting looks in catch and shoot chances. Overall, that number is probably too low to garner consistent success. But when the iso players are shooting like they did tonight, it is not overly concerning.
Mitigating Three Point Threats
The Jazz as a team shot 36% from three on 36 attempts. A lot of their players earned high percentages, but Jordan Clarkson and Malik Beasley—who both shoot above 36% from three normally—combined to shoot 2/15 from deep. They were forced into bad shots time and time again throughout the game, and the Blazers were able to capitalize on their missed shots. Overall the two had 27 points on 35 shots for an extremely inefficient night for both score-first guards, which lead to them both being in the negative in plus/minus.
Defense When It Mattered
Allowing 90 points through three quarters doesn’t exactly constitute a great defensive performance, but the Blazers were able to buckle down and play gritty towards the end of the game. Allowing just 21 points in the fourth quarter, and managing to string together some good defensive possessions late in the game. The Blazers allowed just one made field goal in the last two and a half minutes of the game, culminating in a Simons block on a potentially game tying Jordan Clarkson three point attempt. The Blazers being able to come out victorious in a grind it out game where their leading scorer scored just two free throws in the fourth quarter is a promising sign moving forward for a team that has lacked defensive identity for years.
The Blazers (12-11) head back home to take on the Indiana Pacers on a back to back to start a four game home stand. That game tips off at 6:00 p.m. PT at the Moda Center.