A great performance by the Jazz. They withstood the late charges by the Blazers and were able to pull out the big win on the road. It was your dirty, gritty, grind-it-out win. Really though, it shouldn't have been this close late. Give credit to Portland for coming back and making it a game. But when you're shooting 60% to the other team's 35%, you should be winning by 20. Another three here or there late by Portland, and we could be singing a different tune tonight.
It didn't start out looking so precarious. The Jazz took advantage of some deft passing and movement early in the first. They raced out to a 23-4 lead before a Batum three-pointer got the Blazers going.
The Jazz nearly blew this because of turnovers and not getting a rebound. They gave up 19 offensive rebounds to the Blazers in spite of out-rebounding them 44-38 overall. Portland to their credit only turned the ball over 9 times to Utah's 19.
The Blazers had 29, yes 29, more FGAs than the Jazz. We needed to shoot 60% just to make it out of there alive. I didn't think that the 26-point lead was going to hold for long. You had to figure that against the Blazers, in Portland, that no lead is safe. I expected it to get back down into the teens after a run or two. I didn't expect a slim five-point lead.
The Jazz managed to pull it out though. There were clutch baskets late Deron, Brewer, and Korver. Bigger than those buckets though were the huge rebounds pulled down by D-Will and Millsap late. Deron went up in the trees to pull his down while Millsap pulled his down with a Blazer on his back.
After the Blazers had pulled within 5 at 88-93 with 5:48 left in the game, they went cold from the field. They wouldn't score again until the 1:39 mark on a Juwan Howard jumper. The nail in the coffin came on the next play as Deron had to get up a long three-pointer to beat the shot clock. It missed but the long rebound came off to Ronnie B. The Jazz ran some more time off the clock before Kyle Korver finished his big night up with a three from the top of the arc. That made it 101-90 with :53 seconds left. That was the ballgame.
I hope you're enjoying this team right now. I'm not saying it's going to end, but this is some of the best basketball we have seen from them in long, long time. Maybe you could find some better stretches, time erases a lot of memories, but they're clicking on both sides of the ball right now. Maybe the biggest indicator for me is that they're pulling these games out on the road. That should scare other teams right now. If the Jazz have figured out how to win away from the ESA, that's the difference between a 2-3 seed and fighting for the last spot in the playoffs.
They're finding ways to win when they're not playing their best ball at times. If they stop hitting shots, they're able to pick up the D until they start dropping again. If they make a turnover, they seem to get a stop or cause a turnover to get it back. Everyone is contributing and it's marvelous to see when that happens.
We're off until Friday night when the Kings come into town. From multiple reports it looks like Deron is out as he'll be attending the funeral of his uncle in WV. Siler mentioned that Deron stated he's not shaving the beard even if the Jazz win on Friday.
Don't know what's happened to Boozer other than a strained calf. He's going to see a doctor and I suppose we'll hear more tomorrow. That will cause a couple of huge holes in the roster for Friday.
Great team performance tonight which led to some great individual performances,
He finished with 24 & 7 & 5. Talk about jinxes. Locke mentioned on today's show that Deron only had 1 TO in his last 100 possessions or something like that. He has 5 tonight. He had the big rebound mentioned above along with a mid-range jumper late to help seal the game.
He keeps tearing it up. Another 4-4 from the arc for 16 points total. He missed two FTs on the night which is rare but totally understandable when he gets jinxed. He's had a great return from injury.
10 & 5 & 7. Nice to be able to have to say what the 5 & 7 were. That would be 5 rebounds and 7 assists. Oh, an 0 turnovers. Ronnie's numbers have been down a bit this year. His scoring is down but his shooting percentages are about the same. He's just been taking fewer shots. He had a couple of big shots in this game though. He also made a couple of good basketball decisions late by resetting things instead of trying to force the offense. He was on the floor tonight to close out the game instead of Matthews. More of a matchup decision but it was nice to see him get some crunch time PT.
AK stuffed the box score tonight. 12 points (6-7 from the floor) 6 boards. 2 assists. 2 steals. 3 blocked shots. He did have 4 TOs though. But there's no doubt he's the difference make on a lot of these games.
Millsap played strong all night. When Boozer went down, he came in and was a big reason the Jazz are flying home winners tonight. He had 15 & 12 along with 2 blocks. He and AK combined to stuff Juwan Howard twice on consecutive shot attempts. He'll start getting some more PT now that Boozer will likely be out at least a game I'm guessing.
Memo only shot three times tonight. He has that many in one trip down the floor sometimes. He made some of the biggest, bone-headed plays I've seen. He was turning the ball over late on just sloppy passing and just making some poor decisions all around. He's either dropping off a cliff skill-wise or the coming addition to the Okur household really has him losing his mind. He needs to turn things around. Props on the three blocks though.
He still finished with 14 & 5 in 22 minutes despite leaving the floor in the third with what they're calling a strained calf. He was a perfect 5-5 from the field as well. He's going to see a doctor soon and we'll get a better idea of what's going on. Hopefully he's not going to miss much time, if any.
The Jazz have answered almost everything they've been asked to do. They've won on the road. They've blown out opponents that they're suppose to. They've been able to make the comebacks. And they're playing with a ton of confidence.
WIth DWill and Boozer out on Friday, let's hope we see the same Jazz that have picked things up when players have been out.