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Double-Doubles, Bench Help Trail Blazers Beat Jazz 105-99

02/02/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 4.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    Double-Doubles from JJ Hickson, LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum as well as significant contributions from the bench helped the Trail Blazers (24-23) get even on their back-to-back with the Utah Jazz (25-22) 105-99.

    "24 hours makes a difference."

    The difference between last night in Utah and tonight in Portland was as notable to the viewers as it was to Terry Stotts. One night after letting the Jazz control the tempo, the paint and the game, the Trail Blazers were intent on not letting that happen. According to Will Barton, the Trail Blazers started this game as the aggressors, something they did not do last night.

    "I think we just came out with more aggression and intensity (than on Friday). We knew we needed this game. You never want to lose to the same team twice in a row. You never want to lose two games in a row period."

    The Trail Blazers, without their starting shooting guard Wesley Matthews and their back-up point guard Ronnie Price, needed other players to step up. The bench did rise to the occasion in the form of Barton (seven points, three rebounds), Luke Babbitt (eight points, five rebounds) and late in the game, Nolan Smith (season-high 13 points, nine in 4th quarter). Victor Claver also got the start in place of Wesley Matthews.

    "They knew they would be playing and on the court tonight. Vic (Claver), Will and Nolan real stepped up tonight. They did a good job," said Nicolas Batum, who was one assist shy of a triple-double, finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

    Stotts began the game with a similar starting line-up that he had gone to earlier in the season when Matthews was out of Damian Lillard (23 points, eight assists), Batum, Claver, Aldridge and Hickson. Almost everyone on the Trail Blazers roster except Lillard and Hickson had off shooting nights, but everyone picked up the slack tonight. Aldridge (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Hickson (21 points, 11 rebounds) both had double-doubles to join Batum and Lillard was stellar again. Portland also shot much better from everywhere, shooting 50 percent from the field and healthy 55 percent from distance.

    After Randy Foye hit his third three-pointer of the third quarter, the Jazz held a 10-point lead with 6:19 left forcing Stotts to call time. The Trail Blazers went small going with Luke Babbitt at the power forward position as they did last night and it worked for them again. There was more space for Portland's ball handlers, Lillard, Barton and Batum to get into the teeth of the defense and make plays for others and themselves. The Trail Blazers went on a 14-0 run until the :41 second mark of the third and ended the quarter with a five point lead.

    Something that Stotts talked about before the game was that he wanted his team to run more. And, compared to last night, tonight's game was slightly faster paced as tonight's game had two more possessions, 93 than last night's 91. Although Portland does not play at a fast pace regularly, against a bigger Utah team that takes up space in the paint in the half court, getting more possessions was something they had to do.

    Down the stretch, the Trail Blazers were able to close things out despite never being able to fully put game away and sit their starters. Nolan Smith hit a couple of three-pointers as he scored nine fourth quarter points in the corner and JJ Hickson hit seven of his eight free-throw attempts in the fourth, scoring 11 of his 21 in the final period. For Smith, who has had a year without consistent minutes, he showed what he was able to do and his coach trusted him to finish the game down the stretch. Smith called tonight the best game of his career.

    "I think for the time that it came and the situation where we needed a win against Utah, I definitely say it would be. It feels great to get this win."

    All in all, it was a total team effort Portland needed without their starting shooting guard and emotional leader Wesley Matthews. Now, a morning flight and the road await for a six-game trip that LaMarcus Aldridge says will "make or break," their season and their playoff hopes.

    They start with teams they are competing with playoff spots for in Minnesota, Dallas and Houston before going on to Orlando, Miami and New Orleans. The team won't play at the Rose Garden until after the All-Star break on February 18th against Phoenix.


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