Quantcast

Utah Jazz pound Portland for their fifth win in a row

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

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Eric Maynor (6) passes while Utah Jazz power forward Paul Millsap (24) defends on April 1 in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Portland Trail Blazers point guard Eric Maynor (6) passes while Utah Jazz power forward Paul Millsap (24) defends on April 1 in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

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.

Utah Jazz point guard Jamaal Tinsley (6) hangs on to the ball as Portland Trail Blazers point guard Eric Maynor (6) tries to steal it on April 1 in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah Jazz point guard Jamaal Tinsley (6) hangs on to the ball as Portland Trail Blazers point guard Eric Maynor (6) tries to steal it on April 1 in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

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."

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) during the Utah Jazz vs. Portland Trailblazers game on April 1 in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) during the Utah Jazz vs. Portland Trailblazers game on April 1 in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

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."

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) is defended by Utah Jazz point guard Jamaal Tinsley (6) on April 1 in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) is defended by Utah Jazz point guard Jamaal Tinsley (6) on April 1 in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

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."

Portland coach Terry Stotts is impressed after getting smacked twice in four nights by the Jazz. Utah rallied from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to win 105-95 at the Rose Garden on Friday, and the Jazz were never really challenged in picking up their fifth win in which they led from tipoff to the final buzzer.

Utah Jazz power forward Derrick Favors (15) is fouled by Portland Trail Blazers power forward Joel Freeland (19) on April 1 in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah Jazz power forward Derrick Favors (15) is fouled by Portland Trail Blazers power forward Joel Freeland (19) on April 1 in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Utah, by the way, has beaten three other teams aside from Portland by double digits in this timely winning streak.

"The turnovers (16) and offensive rebounds (10) just gave them extra possessions, and they were able to take advantage of it," said Stotts, whose team only scored four second-chance points compared to Utah's 15. "They (the Jazz) are playing at a good level right now. They are making a playoff push and I'll give them credit, especially here at home."

Two guys Utah basketball fans are familiar with had nice nights for Portland (33-41) despite the team's fifth straight loss.

Former Jazz guard Wesley Matthews led the Blazers with 23 points and four 3-pointers, while Weber State product Damian Lillard had 17 points, five assists and five rebounds in his second outing in his college state.

Utah Jazz power forward Paul Millsap (24) is held by Portland Trail Blazers power forward Joel Freeland (19) as he drives on April 1 in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah Jazz power forward Paul Millsap (24) is held by Portland Trail Blazers power forward Joel Freeland (19) as he drives on April 1 in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

It was clear, though, which team had more to play for in this one.

The Jazz jumped out to an early 14-point lead and pulled away for good in the third quarter after Portland briefly challenged in the second quarter.

"It feels good. We need to be on this winning streak," Hayward said. "There's no time to celebrate. We've got some good guys coming in and we gotta keep winning."

Email: jody@desnews.com Twitter: DJJazzyJody

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company