by Alma Bean
Featured image courtesy Soobum Im, USA Today.
The Utah Jazz (11-6) traveled to face the Portland Trail Blazers (9-6) in a battle for the top spot in the western conference.
Something That’s Not Familiar
For the first quarter, Utah held the lead for a total of 15 seconds. Neither team was shooting well, especially Utah who shot 7/26 (26.9%) for the quarter. The quarter consisted of contested shots and turnovers as the quarter started to come to an end. Lauri Markkanen (23/10/2), who scored a career-high of 38 points on Friday, was the only player for Utah that could find the hoop with nine points. With the atrocious shooting from both teams, Portland finished the quarter with a 23-20 lead.
Utah found their rhythm in the second quarter. On the defensive end, Utah only allowed four shots within the perimeter. Utah forced Portland to their worst shooting quarter of the night going 7/18 (38.9%). While Markkanen continued his production by bringing his point total to 15, Malik Beasley (29/3/1) brought his momentum from the previous game. With the help of a 15-point quarter by Beasley, Utah gained their first lead since the 11:01 mark in the first. At this point, 5:39 remained in the first half. Damian Lillard (13/2/7), who was playing his first game against Utah dance December, struggled in the first half. Lillard scored 10 points but eight coming from the free throw line. After a poor shooting quarter for Lillard, 1/9 (11.1%), Utah was able to outscore Portland for the quarter and go into the half with a 58-51 lead.
If It Isn’t Close, It Isn’t a Game
Utah continued their dominance to start the second half. Utah started the third quarter with a 19-7 run, gaining their largest lead of the game of 19 points. Portland proved that the game of basketball is a game of runs. They responded with a 21-5 run just before the end of the quarter. The third quarter came with unfortunate news for both Portland and Utah. While on defense, Mike Conley (0/1/3) suffered a leg injury early in the third quarter and was not able to return. Lillard also suffered a calf injury and both players are likely out for the next week or two. Utah looked to put the rest of Conley’s minutes into Beasley and Talen Horton-Tucker (8/5/2). Will Hardy said he credits Horton-Tucker’s defensive mentality for his success. Utah closed out the third quarter on a 5-0 run to go into the fourth quarter with an 87-79 lead.
Jordan Clarkson (28/2/4) decided to take over in the fourth quarter. He went 5/6 (83.3%) for the quarter and shot 3/3 (100%) from the free throw line. Utah as a whole shot 12/22 (54.5%) for the quarter while Portland shot 10/17 (58.8%). With Lillard out, Portland tried to rely on the production of Josh Hart (19/8/2) and Anfernee Simons (23/8/7). Their production put Utah’s back up against the wall as Portland regained the lead 106-105 with just under three minutes left in the game. Thanks to Clarkson, Utah went on a 10-3 run over the next two minutes which locked in the final result. Utah pulled off yet another close win in back-to-back nights by beating Portland 118-113.
After starting a winning streak during a back-to-back, Utah will travel to southern California to take on the Los Angeles Clippers (10-7) on a Monday night before returning home. Tip-off will be at 8:30 p.m. MT on NBA TV. The local broadcast will be available on AT&T SportsNet.