PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland coach Terry Stotts wore a tan and blue plaid, 1970s-style coat for Friday night’s game to honor the 89th birthday of Blazers legend Jack Ramsay.
For a while, it appeared that might be the only highlight for the home team.
After an ugly first half by Portland and Utah, the Jazz surged ahead by nine heading into the fourth quarter.
Trey Burke was on fire. Enes Kanter was doing damage (good damage) in the paint. Gordon Hayward (17 points) was even showing signs of busting out of his extended slump.
That, however, is when the Jazz unraveled like the hippie-era blazers you might find in your grandpa’s closet — or on Stotts at the Moda Center.
While the Jazz came apart at the seams, Damian Lillard entered cheat-code mode in the final period to lift the Blazers to a come-from-behind 102-94 win over the Jazz.
“In this league, it’s hard to keep a lead period, whether you’re at home or on the road,” Burke said. “For us, we’ve just got to learn how to maintain our lead and keep our composure.”
Neither of those things happened in the fourth quarter as the Jazz lost for the second time coming out of the All-Star break and slipped to 19-35.
This game turned out to be a fun duel between Lillard and Burke, a pair that teamed up to win the Skills Challenge competition last Saturday during All-Star weekend.
Burke helped the Jazz overtake Portland in the third quarter when Utah outscored the home team 34-21 after only scoring 39 points in the first half.
The Jazz’s bright, young standout finished with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds in one of his better performances.
But on this night, there was just too much Lillard for the Jazz.
At one point, the former Weber State star scored 11 consecutive points for Portland, and the Blazers used a quarter-opening 10-0 run to reclaim the lead and momentum for good.
Lillard showed why he’s an All-Star in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 of his game-high 28 points in the final 12 minutes. He also had seven assists.
“He’s a good player,” Burke said. “He’s going to have games where he goes on tears like that. For us, we’ve just got to learn from that and try to get better from this loss tonight.”
Things really fell apart for the Jazz when Burke sat on the bench for the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. As the Blazers and Lillard went on a tear, the Jazz offense stagnated and even had two shot-clock violations.
Utah couldn’t swing the momentum pendulum back its way after Portland’s early-quarter push despite his return down the stretch.
"We definitely got back into it with the defense," Stotts said. "We were down nine. Nic (Batum) got aggressive. Will (Barton) was aggressive. Mo (Williams) got into the ball. It changed the complexion of the game."
Lillard wasn’t the only Portland player with a familiar face to Utah basketball fans to push the Jazz to a second straight loss and help the Blazers snap a three-game losing streak.
Shooting guard Wesley Matthews scored 24 points to yet again punish his rookie team. The former Jazz guard all but sealed the victory with a breakaway layup with 14.1 seconds remaining, putting Portland up 100-93.
Williams added 13 points off the bench for Portland.
Both teams played short-handed in this one.
The Jazz were without starting center Derrick Favors, who didn’t travel to Rip City because of a right hip sprain. Utah dropped to 0-8 without the fourth-year big man in the lineup.
Portland, meanwhile, managed this win despite not having All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (groin strain) and backup bigs Joel Freeland (knee sprain) and Meyers Leonard (ankle sprain).
Kanter filled up the stats sheet again in Favors’ absence, contributing a team-high 25 points with 10 rebounds. However, Utah dropped to 1-23 with the third-year center in the starting lineup.
For Portland, center Robin Lopez was an interior force, grabbing 18 rebounds to go with 12 points.9 comments on this story
"It sounds a little cliche, but we were the aggressors," Lopez said. "We were a little more tenacious. I really think it's as simple as that."
The Jazz have a chance to rebound quickly from the loss as they return home to host the Minnesota Timberwolves Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena.