The Utah Jazz (48-30), down three starters (George Hill, Rodney Hood, and Derrick Favors), beat the Portland Trail Blazers (48-40), who were down three centers (Jusuf Nurkic, Ed Davis, and Festus Ezeli). It was a lop-sided game that highlighted the imbalances both teams were running with. Portland’s star guard line of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum took 42 of their team’s 83 shots, but made only 16. Utah’s paint presence controlled the glass, 25.0 OREB%, 85.1 DREB%. It’s not a surprise that the Jazz ran away with it, and won 106-87.
The first quarter was competitive, but Utah is the superior team. And Gordon Hayward shot himself out of his recent slump, netting 30 points off of 12/20 shooting. He went 4/6 from downtown, and looked every bit the offensive star he didn’t look over the last few games.
Of course, the major difference was Rudy Gobert. Gobert’s 20 / 11 / 3 / 1 / 3 was entirely unanswered by the Blazers remaining cast of bigmen. Meyers Leonard, Noah Vonleh, and Al-Farouq Aminu combined to get 22 / 8 / 2 / 3 / 1. And a lot of those stats came in garbage time.
Gobert is playing on a transcendent level right now. Not only is he playing better overall than any other center in franchise history (a history that includes end of his career HOFer Walt Bellamy, forgotten man Rich Kelley, 2xDPOY Mark Eaton, 2x NBA Finals Greg Ostertag, and 1x All-Star Mehmet Okur) - but he seems to have the biggest on-court impact of any center in the entire league today, regardless of which franchise they play for.
After tonight’s victory he is just 8 rebounds away from immortality: 1000 points, 1000 rebounds, and 200 blocks.
This game wasn’t that notable, so excuse this recap for focusing on the players more than the fact that Utah won the first quarter by 7 points, the second quarter was lost by one, but the third won by 5, and the fourth by 8. Utah was pulling away, and it was an exciting game were the team would shoot a Spurs -like .534 / .565 / .789 and embarrass the other team.
But it wasn’t all good. Dante Exum, having one of his better games of his career, got brutalized a few times in a row and had to leave the game. He was diagnosed with a hip contusion (bruised hip), and did not return to action. There are two nights off (Wednesday and Friday) before Utah plays again - at home hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves.
I don’t know how severe it is, but he would be the third injured point guard for this team at the same time.
Overall, fun game. Good win. Defense played great. Joe Johnson came off the bench to put Portland away. Shelvin Mack is playing great. The deep bench didn’t let the Blazers back into it, Jeff Withey continues to be a legit force when his number is called. We even got to see mothballed players like Alec Burks, Trey Lyles, and Joel Bolomboy in this game!
But losing Dante really sucks at this part of the season.
Fingers crossed for his next evaluation. And I really hope George Hill and Raul Neto come back soon. But come back healthy.
Four more games. Going .500 gets the Jazz to 50 wins.