Jazz squeak past hot-shooting Wesley Matthews to win 102-97
Just when it felt like the Portland Trail Blazers (25-29) had fought off their tired legs and climbed back to tie the game at 94, all the hard work and hustle instantly went down the drain so fast their heads where probably spinning. After coming off an 10-0 run that was capitalized by one of many threes by former Jazz Wesley Matthews, the Blazers tied the game with more than three minutes to play after trailing as much as eleven to the Utah Jazz (28-26). Another division rival, the Jazz circled this game on their calendar as a “must-win” that will help them in their positing to recapture the 8th seed in the playoff standings.
They withheld a 14-point Blazer lead during the first half and simply with hard work on the boards and second chance points, the Jazz were looking to steal away the game for good. As Raymond Felton loses two critical turnovers on back-to-back possessions, the Jazz get open looks as Portland and Felton are scrambling to pick up the pieces, but it would be too late. The Jazz take the 102-97 win and suck the life out of the Rose Garden and will prepare to face the Blazers two more times before the season is over.
The man with the mission right from the get go was Matthews and Aldridge, the All-Star who fought off Kevin Love the night before was finding himself bumping chests with legit forwards Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. With him scoring inside, Matthews was going wild outside as he starting the night hitting his first 4-5 from the field and a few threes thrown in as well.
The Jazz weren’t finding any luck besides their big men, missing Raja Bell to injury the Jazz were left down by ten and jumpers from Devin Harris bounced off and nothing was working for them. Portland’s bench happily kept the lead, Luke Babbitt and Jonny Flynn both knocked down some more threes (Babbitt easily three-four feet behind the line) and the Blazers were ahead 35-22 after one-quarter.
More of the same during the second as the bench was getting quality shots in and playing some good enough defense to keep Utah frustrated and behind by ten. The Jazz had to quickly place their starters back in and worked on getting into single digits but Aldridge and Matthews were enough to keep them at bay. The only real thing Utah was banking on was the boards on both ends of the floor and second chance points as it helps them cut the lead down to only 57-54 at the half.
Portland came out of the locker room and began to slack off big time, letting someone like Gordon Hayward to become hot from anywhere he wanted to and lazy with passes and turning it over at the wrong time. The Jazz went on a wild 20-1 run peppered through the third. Portland than realized that their All-Star in Aldridge was not getting the ball as much as he was and was feed on multiple straight possessions and forced the Jazz into committing silly turnovers and fouls, but it was only enough to cut Utah to a 83-78 lead after three.
The Blazers would return the favor of going on a 10-0 run of their own as Aldridge and Matthews continued to take big shots and make them. The Jazz would’ve bowed out and fall apart but kept their composure and continued to live inside the paint and force the Blazers out. As time was getting slim, Raymond Felton, who flirted with a triple-double the night before, came in for a productive Flynn and goes on to single handily ruin any chance of a Blazer comeback. With Utah on a mini 7-0 run of their own, Felton bounces the ball off his right foot and out-of-bounds on one take and on another, he gets an inbound pass stolen from CJ Miles who in turn gives an open Millsap the easy dunk. The Rose Garden is quiet and shocked as they were so close to getting a winning streak to build and then watch it crash and burn right in front of their eyes.
It was another game for Portland that shouldn’t have been loss on such a great game from one of their guys, Wesley Matthews had one of his best performances of the season and was hot from downtown all night long and dared to take the big shot, he ended with a team high 33 Pts, 3 Ast, 2 Stl on 10-12 shooting, 5-6 from three in 40 minutes of playing time. LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 Pts, 7 Reb, 2 Blk on 11-22 shooting and had a great game too, his only mishap was stealing a pass during the middle of the fourth and trying to keep it alive he loses it between two green jerseys. Nicolas Batum was the only other starter in double figures with 16 Pts, 10 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl and 4-9 from three but like he usually is, lit up on multiple plays but disappeared the rest of the way. Raymond Felton threw out 8 Ast and grabbed 9 Reb but had 4 turnovers for the night, two of those very costly.
The bench was without Jamal Crawford out with a sore ankle, so Luke Babbitt would led with just 6 Pts and 2-3 from deep. Jonny Flynn dimed 6 Ast and J.J. Hickson only managed to score 4 Pts, 5 Reb as Joel Przybilla came back to the starting lineup.
The Jazz got their man in Paul Millsap who scored 31 Pts, 11 Reb on 14-20 shooting. Shooting guard Gordon Hayward could do no wrong as he went for 20 Pts, 6-12 shooting and 3-5 from three.
- Points in the paint: UTA 56, POR 34
- Fast break points: UTA 13, POR 11
- Shooting percentage: UTA 48%, POR 43% (Portland for the better part were shooting well above 60% for some parts but dropped off when Aldridge sat down)
- Three-pointers: POR 12-22, UTA 4-15 (no surprise here as the Jazz are not a three-point team)
- Total rebounds: UTA 42, POR 40
- Assists: POR 24, UTA 23
- Blocks: POR 6, UTA 1
This could just be the beginning of watching Portland sink lower into the Western standings and become comfortable with being a lottery bound team. The Blazers get to rest for the day and then welcome back Gerald Wallace on Thursday as the New Jersey Nets roll into town.
photos courtesy of oregonlive.com/blazers