The Utah Jazz (0-1) fell to the Portland Trail Blazers (1-0) tonight in a close game, closer than the final score of 113-104. Utah started off hot, went on to an early 14 to insignificance lead, but then Damian Lillard started to get hot. He was hot pretty much all game long. George Hill and Rodney Hood were getting to better of Lillard and backcourt mate C.J. MuCollum early. But it really wasn’t decisive enough to push for either side. After one it was 26-26.
The second quarter looked less impressive. Utah, bereft of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Alec Burks, didn’t have a lot of ‘ready’ depth at hand. At times the Joe Ingles / Boris Diaw line-ups weren’t quick enough on pick and rolls and it seemed like Portland got open looks all night long. (They would end up shooting 13/19 from downtown, which is a whopping 68.4%.) Utah lost the second quarter 28-20, and there were bright spots to be had -- but a bad feeling started to grow in our stomachs.
Was this going to be just another night where Portland’s jump shooting beats Utah?
Joe Johnson put his mark on the game in the third quarter. He scored 15 as the Jazz powered their way to a 37-23 run after half. I don’t know what Quin Snyder said, but keep saying it. Every moment of the day. Utah, without three of their rotation guys, were winning after three. On the road. In Portland. On their home opener (something they haven’t lost in like 15 years).
Oh, also this happened.
Alas, it was a back and fourth forth quarter. Utah couldn’t maintain the lead, and Portland kept getting dribble penetration whenever they wanted. After the starters came back in to finish this game it devolved into a Joe Johnson duel at high noon against Damian Lillard.
And Lillard, at home, won.
It was free throws to end the game and get to the final score of 113-104.
Lillard torched the team for 39 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, and 9 FTA. Free throws, well, that was fun. The two teams didn’t miss a single won and went a combined 38/38. Crazy. C.J. McCollum finished with 25 points, and Allen Crabbe came off the bench to drop 18. They all seemed to be on the same types of high screens that got them open. Each time.
Utah had strong games from Joe Johnson (29 points off of 16 shots, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal), Rodney Hood (26 points, 2 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 assist, 1 block), and George Hill (19 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block), and Rudy Gobert (12 points 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks).
But I think this loss can be partially blamed on bench play.
Dante Exum did “okay”, but Trey Lyles wasn’t that good at all. That’s tough when Boris Diaw is having his “David Benoit” moment from outside. Blah.
One game down, 81 more to go.