by Alma Bean
Feature Image: Jeff Swinger of AP Photo
The Utah Jazz (35-36) takes on the Portland Trail Blazers (31-40) in their final meeting of the season in the race for the play-in.
The first quarter started off like a battle of tanking teams. The first point of the game came at the 9:55 mark from Damian Lillard (30/7/12) as he went 1/2 (50%) from the free-throw line. To this point, Utah shot 0/3 (0%) from the field and 0/2 (0%) from the free throw line and Portland went 0/4 (0%) from the field. After the slump started, both teams began to find their rhythm with Portland shooting 10/22 (45.5%) from the field and Utah shooting 11/18 (61.1%). With Utah’s lack of made free throws in the quarter shooting 6/11 (54.5%), you can expect Utah head coach Will Hardy to run free throw drills in their next practice but managed to hold a 34-29 lead.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “you know what’s scarier than 23?? 𝟮𝟰 🤪 #TakeNote | @WalkerKessler13 https://t.co/p8ZQ7ZZKm7” / Twitter
With the help of Udoka Azubuike (5 points and 2 rebounds) with two incredible blocks and Kris Dunn (15/6/3) playing immaculate defense, it looked like Utah was going to run away with the second quarter. After Lillard was charged with a technical foul at the 7:41 mark of the quarter, Portland kicked things into high gear. Though he only had a four-point contribution in the quarter, Shaedon Sharpe (24/9/3) had a SportsCenter Top-10-worthy alley-oop finish that even had Utah fans in awe. As the quarter was coming to a close, Utah had to make a difficult decision as their starting point guard Talen Horton-Tucker (11/4/7) got into early foul trouble picking up his fourth before the half. After a potential no-call for Ochai Agbaji (7/3/3) on his dunk attempt, Hardy received a technical foul for some choice words he said to head referee David Guthrie. With Portland outscoring Utah 39-22 in the quarter, they went into the half with a 68-56 lead.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “does anyone know how to say “watch your head” in Finnish⁉️ #TakeNote | @MarkkanenLauri https://t.co/P27SvzBZXD” / Twitter
Coming into the third quarter with a 12-point deficit, Utah had to fight an uphill battle. Lauri Markkanen (40/12/3) was willing to take on that challenge including scoring nine straight points for Utah from 7:42 to the 3:06 mark. As Markkanen continued to put Utah on his back, he would occasionally grab his left wrist in pain but continued to play through. Utah received a bit of confidence from the long-time vet Rudy Gay (7/1/1) through the game but after missing three straight shots within a two-minute substitution, Gay would make his way to the locker room and would not return. Gay was later diagnosed with lower back spasms for his injury status. Even with lingering injuries, Utah was able to begin crawling back into this game as they finished the quarter trialing 91-88.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “🇮🇹 major TECC alert 🇮🇹 https://t.co/n3NFmyNYog” / Twitter
In the fourth quarter, Utah tried to take some weight off of Markkanen’s shoulder through Kelly Olynyk (12/10/2). Olynyk scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth with six of them coming from the free throw line. Even with things looking bright with Olynyk, Utah fans near the four-minute mark were left holding their breath. While going up for a layup, Markkanen was fouled hard by Ryan Arcidiacono (3 points and 2 assists) leading to Markkanen landing on his left wrist and staying down on the ground in pain. Arcidiacono’s foul was upgraded to a flagrant one foul, but Markkanen stayed in the game though visibly in pain. With Utah down by 15 points, Hardy threw in the white flag sending in the reserves. Johnny Juzang (3 points) wanted to make his mark on the game scoring a quick three as Utah loses 127-115.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “when the and-1 puts a little pep in your step 🤪 #TakeNote | @krisdunn3 https://t.co/1U2Rd0t1Yk” / Twitter
Utah will be facing the Milwaukee Bucks in the final meeting of the season on Friday.