The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Utah Jazz 127-115 to snap a long six game losing streak that saw them plummet down the Western Conference standings.
The Blazers rode a scorching hot second quarter and strong fourth quarter to the double digit win.
The Blazers were led by a balanced scoring attack that saw four players end with 20 or more points. Damian Lillard had 30, Shaedon Sharpe 24, Trendon Watford had 21, and Jusuf Nurkic finished with 20.
The Utah Jazz were a one man show for much of the game, led by Lauri Markkanen who had 40 points tonight. After him was Kris Dunn with 15 points, and no other Jazz player made it to 13.
If you missed the game, read our instant recap here.
Now for some observations about the game:
The new look starters
With Anfernee Simons and Jerami Grant both missing this contest, the Blazers looked to Shaedon Sharpe and Trendon Watford to help fill the gaps in the starting lineup. The two young players showed that they can perform when called upon.
Sharpe started his first game since late November, and he made a case that it shouldn’t have taken this long for him to be reinserted. He had a career high 24 points, a career high four steals, and a career high nine rebounds. He also added two assists and a couple highlight dunks for good measure. He also finished with a game high +28 plus/minus
Watford did his best Jerami Grant impression on offense, where he had an efficient 21 points on 9/16 from the field. He had a near double with nine rebounds and five assists. He also added a steal and two blocks to help the Blazers defense. He looked electric out on the court and led to a lot of positive finishes to possessions with his passing.
No Answer for Markkanen
The Blazers struggled all night to slow down Lauri Markkanen. The first time all-star finished with 40 points on just 23 shots. He also added 12 rebounds to help out the Jazz efforts on the board.
However, the Blazers seemed to accept at some point that Markkanen was going to get whatever he wanted, and shifted their focus to making sure no one else was able to help him out. Only three other Jazz players made it to double digit points, and all three shot worse than 50% from the field to get there. The Blazers bet on the fact that the rest of the Jazz couldn't win the game for them, and they ended up being correct.
Rebounding from unusual sources
The Blazers were out-rebounded 47-43 in this contest, but Nurkic had just four of those. Generally a rebounding output that low from Nurkic spells disaster on the boards for the Blazers. However, Lillard, Sharpe, and Watford were able to pick up more than their fair share. The three finished with seven, nine, and nine rebounds respectively. Kevin Knox got in on the action with five of his own off the bench, a high for him in his Blazers tenure.
For the Jazz, Walker Kessler only finished with five rebounds despite averaging over ten as a starter. The Blazers were able to force the Jazz to adjust their regular plan. Luckily for the Jazz, they started two other big men that were able to make up the difference. Lauri Markkanen had 12 and Kelly Olynyk had ten to show why they are one of the best rebounding teams in the league.
Taking care of the ball
The Blazers have struggled with turnovers so far this year, ranking in the bottom half of the league in TO’s per game. However, tonight they turned the ball over just eight times. This is even more impressive when considering that the Blazers had 28 assists on the game. The Blazers took care of the ball, while still keeping it moving and getting good shots.
They were able to limit the easy opportunities for the Jazz, while capitalizing on their own chances. The Blazers forced 17 turnovers, and turned those into 17 points off of turnovers. No Blazer player had more than two turnovers, and it was easy to see the result of the lack of that sloppy play. The Jazz’s transition chances were limited to just 11 points on the fast break, as compared to 18 from the Blazers.
A huge second quarter
The Blazers came into the second quarter down by five. They entered halftime up 12. The Blazers scored 39 points and allowed just 22 to break the game wide open. 15/23 shooting from the field during the quarter and turning the ball over just twice led to a lot of possessions finishing with points. The Jazz were never fully able to recover from the deficit they allowed in this quarter. They got close a few times, including tying the game late in the third, but the cushion that the Blazers had allowed them to answer everything the Jazz threw at them for the whole game.
The Blazers take on the Chicago Bulls in the Moda Center to start off a five game home stand. The game is Friday March 24th and tips off at 7:00 pm Pacific Time.