The headline of the evening was the return of Scoot Henderson, who missed the last nine games with a bum ankle. Instead of just dropping him right back off into the deep end of the community pool, Head Coach Chauncey Billups exercised caution with the young rookie, bringing him off the bench behind veteran stalwart Malcolm Brogdon. Henderson struggled with his shot (1-7 FG) but was a difference-maker with 7 assists, 3 boards, a steal and a block in 18 minutes.
Portland’s rotation carousel continued to spin as DeAndre Ayton was a late scratch due to back soreness. Duop Reath started in his place and was solid with 8 points and 4 rebounds.
The win snaps an eight-game losing streak for the Blazers and improves the team to 4-11 on the season.
Jerami Grant led the way with 30 points and 4 assists. Brogdon added 20 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds.
Jabari Walker had his best game as a pro, scoring 19 points to go along with 10 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals off the bench.
Portland came out energized at both ends of the floor, immediately stepping on the gas and carrying the momentum throughout the opening period. On offense, the Blazers executed well and committed few mistakes. The team shared the ball with purpose, finding good looks after just one or two passes early in the shot clock, resulting in 10 assists on 14 made field goals, including 6 threes. Toumani Camara had a pair of those triples as part of a team-high 8 points in the quarter as Portland built an early lead. Guys were getting to their spots and an apathetic to say the least Utah defense did little to disrupt their rhythm.
Defensively, the Blazers forced 7 turnovers and capitalized on them well, putting pressure on Utah in transition. Camara had Lauri Markkanen on a leash and gave him fits, holding the Finn to just two points in the quarter.
Cohesively, Portland was able to put together a complete quarter that resembled good NBA basketball and held a 32-21 lead after one.
The second unit didn’t seem to miss a beat as they continued to press the energy advantage and outwork the Jazz. A now goggles-sporting Henderson (major Buck Williams vibes) didn’t take long to demonstrate his “ball out of cannon” style of play in limited minutes off the bench. The man moves around the court like he has a permanent “NBA Jam” turbo button. While he didn’t shoot the ball well (1-6 FG in the half) he was effective in pushing the pace and keeping the Blazer offensive machine in running order (+6 in 8 minutes).
Much of that machine could be attributed to Matisse Thybulle, who was a a perfect 4/4 from the field for 10 points in the fist half. But it was defensively where he really made his mark, swiping two steals and getting his mitts on several would-be more.
Utah did little to stop Portland from continuing to do its thing and the Blazers were able to head into the locker room holding a commanding 65-46 lead.
The Jazz found few answers during the break and Portland was able to continue out-hustling, out-shooting and just about out-everything-ing them throughout the third. While Markkanen did start to find his shot, he didn’t get much support. The Blazers’ vets of Brogdon and Jerami Grant did a good job of answering Utah’s mini-runs with buckets and stifling any hope at a comeback. Most of Brogdon’s points came right around the basket either off an offensive board or cherry-picking in transition. It must have felt back-breaking.
Shaedon Sharpe was able to fill in the rest of the gaps. Instead of settling for contested threes, Sharpe did most of his damage in the midrange and was effective generating points both in transition and in the half-court. Having primary ball handlers in Brogdon and Henderson back in the fold is no coincidence to his success. When he’s a second or third option, he is disruptive to deal with and Utah didn’t have much of an answer.
The Jazz won the period 27-24, but they weren’t able to gather enough momentum to make it an actual contest. Portland went into the final frame leading 89-73.
For the first time this season, the Blazers were able to enjoy a full period of garbage time in a win. It was good to see Portland in position to cruise home for a win instead of watching the other team do it to the Trail Blazers.
The Blazers will get a few days off before heading east to take on Damian Lillard and the Milwaukee Bucks in a Sunday matinee. Tip is set for 12:30pm Pacific.