Trail Blazers 'Put Away' Once Again Versus Jazz

by Casey Holdahl
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SALT LAKE CITY -- It seemed as though the Trail Blazers had a good chance to come away with a win versus a great team in the first half of Thursday night’s game versus the Jazz. Their shots were falling, they committed just three turnovers and utilizing a small lineup in the second quarter worked exceedingly well. The game was there for the taking.

Instead, they ended up giving it away in the third quarter.

After taking a three-point lead into the half, Portland gave up 40 points and were outscored by 21 in the third on the way to losing 122-103 to the Jazz in front of 5,546 fans Thursday night at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City.

The Trail Blazers are now 30-21 overall, 15-11 on the road and 8-12 against teams over .500 this season. With the loss, the Trail Blazers, currently in sixth, now sit just one game above the Dallas Mavericks for seventh in the West.

"When we play against the top level teams, we don't play well," said Damian Lillard. "We get put away. At Phoenix we got put away. Tonight we got put away. At Denver we got put away. Milwaukee at home, got put away. Against the Clippers, got put away. It's not like it's a small sample size, it's what happens. When we play against the better teams where you have to be consistent, you've got to be able to sustain a certain level of focus, you've got to be sharp. Physically, mentally, you've got to be present, you've got to be ready to go because these teams are top level teams and those are the teams that we're trying to be next to, we trying to be in that same boat of teams and when those games have come, we just haven't shown that we're that level of a team."

After giving up 47 points in the first quarter in Tuesday’s loss to the Clippers, the Trail Blazer put in a much better first-quarter effort Thursday night in Salt Lake City. Donovan Mitchell got going to the tune of 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting, but with Portland’s three-quarter lineup of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Normal Powell providing balanced scoring and Jusuf Nurkic plugging the middle on defense, the Blazers came up one point short of the Jazz going into the second quarter, a marked improvement from the previous game.

And in the second, Portland used a lineup with Nassir Little and Robert Covington at the forward positions and Enes Kanter at center with great success, going on a 12-0 run late in the quarter to take their largest lead at 54-46 with just over a minute to play in the half. Utah answered back with seven-straight, but Lillard closed the half out with a dunk to give Portland a 56-53 halftime lead.

But even though it was the Jazz who were playing the second night of a back-to-back, it was the Trail Blazers that looked stuck in the mud in the third quarter. Utah scored early and often in the quarter while stymying what had been a relatively potent first-half offense for the visitors. The combination of the two resulted in a 21-2 Jazz run that turned what was a two-point game midway through the third into a blowout by the start of the fourth quarter.

“Obviously we had some empty possessions,” said Stotts of his team’s third quarter. “Two plays that stood out was, from a defensive standpoint, we gave up a transition layup that we shouldn’t have given up, we gave up an offensive rebound. Those two momentum plays took the lead for four to eight. Obviously there are going to be some swings in the game but I thought those two plays in particular kind of separated and we never really got back into it after that.”

Lillard led the Blazers with 23 points on 8-of-21 shooting from the field and 3-of-12 shooting from three, six assists and five rebounds in 34 minutes. CJ McCollum also went 8-of-21 from the field but didn’t get any trips to the free throw line to finish with 19 points, three rebounds and two assists in 35 minutes.

Norman Powell went 4-of-10 for 13 points to go with five rebounds, an assist and a steal in 34 minutes. Jusuf Nurkic, who returned to the starting lineup Thursday night after sitting out Tuesday’s loss to the Clippers with right knee inflammation, went 4-of-8 for 10 points, six rebounds, four assists, one block and one steal in 22 minutes.

Donovan Mitchell led all scorers with 37 points in 33 minutes. Rudy Gobert finished with 18 points and 20 rebounds.

Next up, the Trail Blazers return home to host a weekend back-to-back at the Moda Center starting Saturday night with the Detroit Pistons. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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