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Utah Jazz pound Portland for their fifth win in a row

Published: Monday, April 1 2013 11:15 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — If you ask Al Jefferson, the NBA forgot to dish out an award on Monday.

Denver's George Karl and Miami's Erik Spoelstra earned coach of the month honors for March, while the Knicks' J.R. Smith and Big Al were named players of the week for their respective conferences.

"They said Al Jefferson's player of the week," Jefferson said. "I think the Utah Jazz is the team of the week."

Can a trophy maker along the Wasatch Front make that award happen?

Continuing their red-hot play of late, the Jazz might be front-runners for team of the month honors based on their 112-102 blowout win against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena.

The victory pushed the Jazz's season-high winning streak to five games, the most consecutive wins they've strung together since the end of the 2011-12 season.

The outcome also gave Utah (39-36) sole possession of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, putting the streaking squad a half-game above the vaunted Los Angeles Lakers (38-36).

"We're just a team playing like we want to be in the playoffs," Jefferson said, "and that's the difference."

The Jazz, just three nights after a riveting rally and 105-95 win in Portland, dominated a Blazers team playing without injured All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge on the inside.

Jefferson scored 24 points with 10 rebounds, Derrick Favors added 18 points and seven boards, and Paul Millsap chipped in 16 points as Utah outscored Portland 52-28 in the paint.

"I'm really proud of the pick-and-roll game," Jefferson said. "We've been doing a lot of that lately, and it's really been working for us."

Another thing that's working? More specifically than just about everything?

The Jazz's outside game.

Utah got 20 points and 6-of-7 3-point shooting from Mo Williams, who also dished out nine assists.

"Mo, you can tell he's back in his groove," Jefferson said.

Two nights after his franchise-tying eight-pack 3-pointer game, Randy Foye also knocked down 3-of-6 from beyond the arc and scored 11 points, while Gordon Hayward contributed 12 points.

That helped neutralize the Blazers, who shot a blistering 58.2 percent from the field, including a stellar 13-of-23 from deep range.

"It's always good to play well. You always sleep better, especially when you're winning. It's the most important thing," said Williams, who scored 28 in Utah's win over the Blazers on Friday. "Right now, it's coming at a great time. We need the wins more than ever."

The Jazz will practice Tuesday morning and then keep an interested eye on a game that night that could help them out – the Lakers host the Mavericks (36-37). An L.A. loss would give Utah some extra breathing room, while a Dallas defeat would almost turn it into a two-team race for the final two weeks.

Of course, the Jazz are more focused on taking care of what's ahead of them — Wednesday's big home showdown with Northwest Division rival Denver.

"We've got (seven) games left and we understand that L.A. is a really good team with potentially four Hall of Famers playing," Foye said. "We've just got to take it one game at a time and understand that we control our destiny and that if we do what we have to do we won't have to worry about what the Lakers are doing."

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