PORTLAND, Ore. — The Utah Jazz not only lost an exhibition basketball game to the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden on Monday night, but they also treated the home fans to one of the easiest freebies they'll ever have.
A local taco house treats ticket-holders to a free chalupa if the Blazers hit 100 points. They had that with 10:22 left in the game on a 3-pointer by Nicolas Batum. More on him later, but if the promotion had been progressive the fans would have been up to at least a couple of super burritos by the end.
The Jazz's 120-114 loss fell somewhere between Portland's sizzling shooting and open-court speed and the Jazz's first-half "effort."?
Either way, the defense that was to be a point of emphasis in this preseason — and which was impressive on Saturday against the Clippers — was painfully absent.
"We scored enough points; we ended up shooting 51 percent for the game," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said, "but we give up 120 by the end of the game. That's too much.
"We've got to figure out some things on defense. It's a long season; there will be nights when teams make shots on you, but you have to buckle down.
"We were down by 27, but we fought back and had a chance. But you know what? You can't feel sorry for yourselves, you've got to continue to fight."
The game wasn't as close as it looks. The Blazers led by 21 when their two hottest scorers — Batum and ex-Weber State Wildcat Damian Lillard — went to the bench with seven minutes left in the game.
Six was as close as the Jazz got after that.
The Jazz, 4-3 now, were actually in control of the game for awhile — awhile being, in this case, the first 2:32 of the game. The team spread the scoring around among four players, got one of its two 3-pointers in the half (from Marvin Williams) and scored 10 of the game's first 14 points.
That was enough for the home team right there. Batum stopped the bleeding with a 3-pointer from the left corner and pulled the cork out of the dam at the same time.
Two minutes later the Blazers led by six. Three minutes after that they were up 27-14. By the quarter break they had 41 points; at the half they had 70, which is just 30 points away from the calories.
The numbers were frightening: Portland hit 16 of its first 20 shots (80 percent) and five of its first six 3-pointers. The Blazers had nine 3-pointers by the half.
The Jazz — with the noticeable exception of Enes Kanter — didn't get in the way much. Al Jefferson and Alec Burks each took a charge in the first two quarters, respectively. Maybe it was some kind of omen that they both got called for the foul.
Kanter was the exception, bouncing around in the key after loose balls and opportunities. He hit all four of his first-half shots and led the team with nine points.
He finished with a team-high18 with six rebounds, and his coach noticed the effort.
Corbin wasn't entirely displeased with things. He was impressed with the group that closed the Blazers' 21-point lead down to six.
"We continued to fight," he said. "I thought the group at the end (did well), and we got better in the second half. We turned ball over too many times in the third quarter.
"The effort was there, but we just couldn't get up to them."
Batum (27 points) wasn't the only Blazer who had an exceptional game.
Fans of Utah basketball may be pleased to note that Lillard, the Blazers' first-round pick, was solid in every category.
He justified his elevated status with 21 points on 6 of 8 shooting, eight assists, two steals and even four rebounds.
"He's a talented player," Corbin said. "He showed that what he did in college transitioned into this league. He can score the ball and distribute it to his teammates.
"I thought he looked good tonight."?
Said Lillard: "I thought I was efficient shooting the ball. I probably tried to make more plays than I should have — I was a little aggressive with a couple of passes — but I thought I made some good plays, also."
If Monday's results are the start of a pattern, Utah will know soon enough. The same two teams hook up again at EnergySolutions Arena at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
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