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Lillard's 26, Late Comeback Not Enough In Utah

02/01/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    Damian Lillard's Utah homecoming did not go as planned. Lillard had 26 points and five assists but it wasn't enough as the Trail Blazers (23-23) fell to the Jazz (26-21) 86-77.

    "We got off to a decent start offensively, we just got bogged down there at the end of the first quarter and second quarter and had a hard time scoring," Terry Stotts said.

    The Trail Blazers started off looking good in the first few minutes. Damian Lillard hit his first shot of the game to start things off and with many Weber State fans in attendance, it looked like Lillard would be in for a similar night like he had against the Golden State Warriors in his return to Oakland. However, it seemed to be too similar as, like in the Golden State game, the rest of the Trail Blazers couldn't buy a bucket even if it was on clearance. The Trail Blazers shot 36.7 percent from the field.

    Credit should go to the Jazz, however the Trail Blazers had a lot of makable shots around the rim that rolled off. The Jazz big men did a nice job of contesting those shots at the rim to make them tough finishes, but shots that normally fall were rimming out for just about everyone. The Trail Blazers even missed two dunks in the early going.

    "For the night we had trouble scoring. Missed some easy shots around the basket and you have those nights," Stotts said.

    The Jazz were going to work on the inside, as expected. They were doing well offensively, behind Al Jefferson (21 points), Paul Millsap (15 points) and Derrick Favors (seven points, 12 rebounds), but they weren't hitting any threes and Portland still had a chance to comeback again.

    With Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge suffering poor shooting nights and Wesley Matthews rolling an ankle (X-Rays were negative, status for tomorrow uncertain), Lillard was the only man for the job of leading the comeback.

    Lillard scored 20 of his 26 points in the second half on 13 shots. He was aggressively attacking the rim and hitting three-pointers. One reason why Lillard was able to get into the lane was that Stotts went with Luke Babbitt at the power forward spot, creating space on the floor. A Lillard three cut the Jazz lead to five points with 3:57 in the game but it was as close as the Trail Blazers would get.

    After the game, Stotts emphasized the importance of spacing in tomorrows match-up. Portland had far more success going small against Utah's big line-ups than they did trying to match bigs with bigs. Ronnie Price also re-injured his right ankle in the fourth quarter and his status for tomorrow, like that of Matthews is uncertain. With Matthews out, it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see Stotts start with the Lillard-Batum-Claver-Aldridge-Hickson line-up we saw throughout much of December.

    The Trail Blazers and Jazz will travel to Portland tonight for their game tomorrow night at the Rose Garden. That game will tip off at 7PM and will be shown on KGW. It can also be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

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