PORTLAND, Ore. — Because of an illness and three injuries — one of which wasn't even revealed until after the game — the Utah Jazz only had nine players available Thursday night.
And after Ronnie Price fouled out early in the fourth, the Jazz only had eight guys left.
Unfortunately for Utah, Wesley Matthews was not one of them.
The former Jazz guard haunted his old team, helping the Portland Trail Blazers blast outmanned Utah, 100-89, with a Rose Garden-pleasing 30-point outing.
"I'm motivated to go against anybody," Matthews said. "Utah is an added bonus, but there's no bad blood there. Everybody wants to play good against their former team."
And that he certainly did — and then some.
The second-year guard, whom the Jazz opted not to sign in the offseason much to Portland's delight, hit 9 of 16 shots, drilled four 3-pointers and received a hero's sendoff when he exited the game in the final minute.
Spectators gave him a standing ovation and loudly chanted "Wesley Matthews! Wesley Matthews!" after watching their newest favorite player — who's proving plenty capable as the injured Brandon Roy's fill-in — torch the Jazz in the Blazers' second win over them in four nights.
"I thought he had a great game," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said of Matthews, who went from being an undrafted rookie to a contributing starter in his rookie season with Utah.
But Sloan said he was more upset about his own team played while falling to 22-11 than he was with Matthews' big outing. The Jazz had 18 turnovers, leading to 26 Portland points.
"He doesn't work for us anymore. I've got to worry about our guys. He's got a job, so good luck to him," said Sloan, who's spoken highly of Matthews' work ethic and effort since last year. "I just wished we'd played a little bit better and won the ballgame, but we didn't win the game. That's what's frustrating."
The Jazz didn't use playing on the road for the second time in 24 hours while being very shorthanded as an excuse.
But it certainly didn't help the Jazz's cause that they were without Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur, both out with strained lower backs, or that C.J.. Miles was flu-stricken again.
Though he dressed and sat on the bench, backup big man Francisco Elson also couldn't play because of an injury to his right big toe.
Elson's toenail is about to completely come off because, he admitted, his new shoes weren't broken in properly. That, Sloan said afterward, explains why the coach only used the center for two minutes in L.A. and didn't take him off the bench in this blowout.
"That (bleep) hurts like crazy," Elson said. "Maybe I need to take better care of my feet."
It also didn't help that Utah played without energy or enthusiasm while falling behind by nine points in the fourth quarter — in yet another slow start — and by as many as 19 in this blowout.
Bell blamed Utah's lackluster play for the loss — not the fact they were on the tail end of a road back-to-back after beating the Clippers 103-95 in a comeback win at Staples Center on Wednesday or that the Jazz had fewer players than Elson had healthy toes.
"I thought that was a poor effort all the way around," Bell said. "You chalk it up to (back-to-back or being shorthanded), but I think we've got to be tougher than that. As a team through the game, I thought we got pushed around. We got manhandled."
It also hurt that Portland big man LaMarcus Aldridge had another strong outing against Utah. The 6-foot-11 forward came into this quick rematch having averaged 25.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in two previous meetings this year.
Though his boards (three) were a bit down — perhaps because center Marcus Camby gobbled up 20 rebounds — Aldridge punished Utah with 27 points.
Aldridge's old-fashioned three-point play with just under six minutes remaining helped squelch a mini-Jazz rally. Utah had crept back within seven points at 85-78 midway through the fourth until Aldridge sparked a momentum-shifting 6-0 Portland run.
Jazz point guard Deron Williams, who led Utah with 19 points and eight assists, pointed to the rough start, as being the biggest culprit.
"We can't keep getting down early," Williams said. "It takes a toll on your body. It takes a toll on you mentally."33 comments on this story
Though it came in a loss, Williams had the play of the game. With time running out in the first quarter, D-Will squeezed through a double-team behind the half-court line. He then heaved up a 46-footer that crashed off the glass and into the bottom of the net after the buzzer sounded.
That answered prayer shot came in an 8-0 Jazz run, which gave the visitors a rare lead at 30-29. Utah went ahead again at 32-31, but Portland didn't give it up again after that before turning it into a rout.
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