Utah Jazz: New jerseys, new resolve, new spot in playoff standings for victorious Jazz
PORTLAND, Ore. — The Utah Jazz started the game with new jerseys. They started the second half with a new starting lineup.
And they finished a road game with a new resolve.
That all added up to a new result.
For the first time since Feb. 13 in Minnesota, the Jazz clutched it up when it counted for a win away from EnergySolutions Arena.
With a dominating finish, the Jazz turned a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit into an impressive 105-95 victory Friday over the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden.
"There's still a long way to go, but it's great for this group of guys," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "It shows their grit and desire and the character they've shown to continue to fight and give themselves a chance."
While outplaying Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard, Mo Williams scored 14 of his game-high 28 points in the final five minutes to lift the Jazz to their third consecutive overall win.
Millsap added eight of his 25 points during the Jazz's game-changing — and perhaps season-saving — 23-4 run in crunch time to help Utah end a nine-game road losing streak.
Oh by the way, another new look for the Jazz?
They're no longer on the outside looking in on the Western Conference playoffs.
Utah improved to 37-36 to catch the idle Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth and final postseason spot out West. The Jazz own the tiebreaker against the Lakers thanks to their 2-1 season-series edge.
"It's a huge win for us on the road tonight," Corbin said. "I don't care who we're playing. We needed to get a road win and they did a great job of fighting back in that second half to have a chance to win that game."
Nine games still remain in the season, so this wasn't necessarily a must-win game.
But the Jazz played like it was — in a good way — after falling behind 89-80 with 6:43 remaining.
Millsap, who also had 10 rebounds, scored with 5:48 to go to end a 10-0 spurt by a Portland team that was playing without All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
That seemed to spark something in a desperate squad that tried multiple different things to reverse its fortunes after a month and a half of road futility.
Before the game, trainer Brian Zettler decided to ditch the Jazz's old road uniforms in hopes of changing their luck with new jerseys.
Then at halftime, Corbin decided to alter his starting lineup for the third quarter — inserting Derrick Favors (13 points, 10 rebounds) in the power forward spot instead of foul-plagued Millsap.
"We wanted to buy some minutes for Paul and we wanted to make sure we came out with aggressiveness on the defensive end," Corbin said. "Derrick did a great job for us. He covered a lot of space in there, helped us out at the basket. I thought it got us going. The defense was the thing that was the key to the game."
To wit, the Jazz, who shot a sizzling 50 percent from the field for the game, scored 32 points in the third and 31 in the final period. At the same time, they held Lillard and crew to just 43 total points in the second half. Corbin was especially pleased that Portland was held scoreless on seven straight possessions while the Jazz went on a 13-0 spurt.
The former Weber State star finished with 24 points, but Williams had his way when it counted the most.
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