PORTLAND, Ore. — The Jazz cruised past the Blazers from the time the second quarter had hardly ticked away, winning in Oregon (112-91) to maintain their playoff hopes. Devin Harris led Utah (33-30) with 27 points, while Portland (28-35) saw former Jazzman Wesley Matthews score 17.
Guards: Devin Harris truly played one of his best games of the season, scoring 27 points on 8-of-15 shooting, with four rebounds. Harris' outing marked his second-best point output of the season, exceeded only by a 28-point effort on April 6 against Golden State. Harris, an 11 points-per-game scorer this season, has now scored 18 or more points in six of the past eight games. With 23 points, four rebounds and three 3-pointers, Gordon Hayward also was excellent. Nolan Smith and Matthews did damage for the Blazers, scoring 37 combined points.
Forwards: Paul Millsap (six points) scored in single figures for just the third time in 29 games, and DeMarre Carroll's eight points came on 3-of-10 shooting from the field. Fortunately, Blazer starting forwards J.J. Hickson and Nicolas Batum weren't on top of things, either, combining to shoot 5-of-17. Backup forward Luke Babbitt also shot just 6-of-17 en route to 16 points. Credit Millsap for displaying a strong defensive effort against the lengthy Hickson.
Centers: Al Jefferson grabbed 10 rebounds — not quite the 26 he grabbed on Monday against Dallas, but more than the three straight games he had single-digit boards. However, his 11 points came on a mere 4-of-14 display from the field. However, Portland's Hasheem Thabeet (four points, 17 minutes) wasn't much of a factor. Enes Kanter provided 10 points in 17 minutes, his highest points-per-minute display since March 31 against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Bench: The Jazz bench outscored Portland's reserves, 37-32, led by Alec Burks' 17 points, five rebounds and five assists in starter's minutes (27). It was great to see Jeremy Evans provide 12 lively minutes, scoring five points and grabbing six rebounds in the productive process. Utah won't miss Raja Bell or C.J. Miles in the last few games of the season, the potential playoffs or the future if Burks and Evans can perform like they did on Wednesday night.
Overall: The Blazers were able to only put a shell of their personnel on the floor, but the Jazz provided an excellent performance regardless of the other side. The team played with a high level of energy and clearly showed they were the team still playing meaningful games, making 26 of their 32 free throws and surprising fans by shooting a sparkling 10-of-17 from distance. They outrebounded a team that is arguably bigger than them, 49-39. Wednesday's contest indicates that Utah will at least make it close in each game to close out the season.
Rhett Wilkinson majoring in communications and political science at Utah State University. He has previously been an intern for the Deseret News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Twitter @wilklogan.
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