- Bruce Ely/The Oregonian
The Blazers (24-23) get an important home win (105-99) over the Jazz (26-22), and even the season series up versus a Western Conference playoff contender.
Portland tuned the ball over 16 times which led to 16 Utah points, and forced only 5 turnovers for 2 Blazer points. They also shot a terrible 19-28 (68%) from the free throw line. Westley Matthews, Sasha Pavlovic, and Ronnie Price were all kept out with ankle and foot issues. Freeland said he had dropped 6 lbs with from being sick and did not play either. If the Blazers ever needed the bench to step up, tonight was the night.
Through the first half, the bench combined for 29 minutes, 6 points, 2 assists, 4 rebounds (all defensive), and 3 turnovers. That was part of an 8 turn over second quarter. They shot 2-7 from the field and 0-3 from behind the arc at that point. The Blazers took to the locker room only down 3, due in large part to outscoring Utah in the paint (22-18) and outrebounding them (25-20 and 3 more offensive boards), and despite turning the ball over ten times to Utah's two.
Portland's struggles continued into the 3rd quarter until the 6 min mark. Down 10 (63-53), Portland went on a 14-0 run and finished the quarter out scoring Utah 19-4 in those 6 minutes. Both Babbitt (8 pts) and Baton (7 pts) came up with some great effort with defense and scoring. I still get nervous when Baton brings the ball up the court or even handles the ball, or when Babbitt pump fakes and drives to the basket, but things turned out OK this time. Meyers Leonard struggled again versus Utah. He was out of place and slow to react most of the night, ending with no points 2 fouls and 2 rebound in 6 minutes for the game.
But in another crazy twist where Portland gets another win on a different Stotts magic formula, Nolan Smith would play the entire 4th quarter. He made 2 three pointers on a 9 point quarter. It wasn't amazing, but it was definitely enough.
Portland's bench ended the game outscoring Utah's bench 28 to 25. Portland outrebounded Utah 49 to 37. And the Blazers outscored the Jazz in the paint 46-44. They also shot over .507 from the field and .556 from deep, while holding Utah to just .433 shooting and .421 from three. So despite lousy free throw shooting and a huge turnover differential, Portland pulls out a great win.
The playoff chances for Portland are still unclear, but we'll know a lot more after this upcoming road trip of 6 games in 11 days.
Top Blazer Performers
Damian Lillard: 23 points, 8 assists
- this win breaks a streak of 5 losses when Lillard led the Blazers outright in scoring
LaMarcus Aldridge: 18 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks
JJ Hickson: 21 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 made free throws in the final 2 min
Nicolas Batum: 12 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists (just missed his 3rd triple double this year)
Fun Blazer Facts
Portland leads the NBA in wins when trailing at the half (11)
8-0 when shooting over 50% from the field
16-1 when leading after the 1st quarter
15-8 when Lillard scores 20 or more
13-8 in games decided by 6 or fewer points
JJ Hickson is 3rd in the NBA in double-doubles (26)
LaMarcus Aldridge had a career-high 11 double-doubles in January
Lillards interview with NBATV after the win: