SALT LAKE CITY — Perhaps it was too much eggnog or an overdose of stocking candy during their Christmas break.
Maybe the Utah Jazz are simply allergic to days off.
And, for whatever odd reason, its starting to look like they prefer to be booed at rather than cheered for during games.
Combine all of that with a motivated Portland team — sparked by ex-Jazzman Wesley Matthews grit and LaMarcus Aldridges length and skill — and the result wasnt pretty for the Jazz.
Earning a bit of payback, the ramped-up and defensive-minded Trail Blazers took it to a lackluster Utah squad for a 96-91 road victory at EnergySolutions Arena on Monday night.
They took the life out of us, I guess, because they busted us in the mouth and everything else, and we fell out like flies, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. You play games like this at home and in your building, weve got to be a little tougher than what we were.
Aldridge led the Blazers (16-15) with 26 points and seven rebounds, and Portland also got strong performances from a couple of familiar faces to Utah basketball fans.
Matthews, in his first game back in Utah since signing with Portland in the offseason after a strong rookie season with the Jazz, struggled from the field but scored 14 points. Though he had five early turnovers, the second-year guard added eight rebounds, three assists, a steal and played stifling defense.
Former Ute Andre Miller turned in a 17-point performance, including five late clutch free throws, to push Portland over Utah.
The Blazers victory snapped the Jazzs three-game winning streak and ended a five-game skid Portland had going against Utah. It was also the struggling Northwest Division rivals first win in Utah in six tries.
They just played better than us, said Jazz point guard Deron Williams, who had a game-high 31 points with six assists but five turnovers.
They stood us up and they were physical, the All-Star added, and I dont think we screened well and didnt get open and didnt get good looks.
That, strangely, especially seemed to be the case after the Jazz took a 53-46 lead early in the third quarter.
Matthews drained a 3-pointer to snap Portland out of a funk, and the Blazers didnt stop snapping until theyd reeled off a 14-0 run.
Utah responded with a late third-quarter spurt, sparked by a pair of Raja Bell 3-pointers, to tie the game heading into the fourth quarter.
But the Blazers seized control in the final period and maintained a three-to-five point lead for most of the quarter as the Jazz failed to find traction or consistent scoring against the driven visitors.
I think we were just out of sync and a bit sluggish, Bell said. We came out and didnt seem to be moving around crisp. We werent moving period sometimes offensively. We were kind of stationary, and that put us in a tough spot.
Williams made things exciting in the final 31 seconds, scoring 10 points to trim a seven-point Portland lead to three with 7.7 ticks remaining after his second long bomb in a row. But it was too little, too late for the lethargic Jazz.
You have to give them credit, said Sloan, whose team led 27-20 after the first quarter. They came in here and wanted the ballgame. They missed some shots early, but they came right back.
The loss was Utahs sixth in 17 games at home already this season (after a 32-9 record at ESA last season). Conversely, the Jazz have a superior 10-4 mark on the road.
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