The Utah Jazz fell to the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday night. The Jazz started the game strong but then sputtered on offense in the second quarter and Portland took advantage, building a 12-point buffer going into halftime. The wheels did not completely fall off for the Jazz until the 4th quarter after ending the 3rd quarter down by only three points. But the Blazers' role players looked like they couldn’t miss down the stretch and the Blazers escaped Salt Lake City with the much-needed win.
For Portland and star guard Damian Lillard, they came into this game only a couple of months removed from the last meeting between these two teams when Damian Lillard erupted for 60 points. It shouldn’t be that much of a surprise because Damian Lillard is that good, but the Jazz have always struggled to contain him. Portland came into this game riding a six-game losing streak, so it seemed like the perfect time for them to snap out of it with a good team effort and not just rely on a big game from Dame. The role players really came through with that tonight, Lillard led the way with 30 points but he got help with 4 out of 5 starters scoring in double figures and a nice game from Cam Reddish off the bench with 11 points. That combined with a stingy defense that led to winning the turnover battle was the key for Portland getting this win tonight.
The Jazz looked a little bit flat tonight, which is surprising considering the return of Lauri Markkanen. Markkanen’s return was stellar with 40 points, 12 rebounds and 3 assists. The game started off well enough in the 1st quarter but after that, shots started missing and the energy was only about halfway there for this team for the rest of the game. That’s not to say that the effort was terrible as the Jazz did manage to battle and claw back into the game in the second half, but it was too big of a hill to climb for the Jazz tonight. Jazz forward Rudy Gay left the game during the 3rd quarter and was ruled out for the rest of the game due to back spasms.
With only 10 games left, the Jazz enter the stretch run right in the middle of the seesaw. They could go one way and get as high as the 4th seed in the West or they could fall as low as 13th and start their highly anticipated summer right on schedule. The Blazers have a little bit more work to do to get back into playoff contention but either way both of these teams are back at it on Friday as Portland hosts the Chicago Bulls and Utah welcomes the Milwaukee Bucks to town. GO JAZZ!!