PORLTAND, Ore. — During his pregame interview, Portland coach Terry Stotts admitted that sometimes he has to “state the obvious” to his players.
Sure, the Trail Blazers entered Friday’s game with the best record in the Western Conference, but Stotts still shared a warning before taking on the four-win Utah Jazz: “We need to keep playing at a certain level that’s gotten us to this point, regardless of who we’re playing.”
While we’re in state-the-obvious mode, something else was very evident at the recently rebranded Moda Center on this night.
The Jazz defense was somewhere between apathetic and flat-out pathetic during a humiliating 130-98 blowout loss to the red-hot Blazers.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward said.
Another obvious point?
The Blazers, now 17-3, are a far superior squad than the Jazz, who fell to 4-17 in their worst performance since (you pick) lopsided losses against Golden State, Denver, Toronto, Chicago, Boston or Brooklyn.
“Tough loss. Tough loss,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said, repeating himself for emphasis. “You’ve got to give them credit.”
Best team in the West?
"Their record is there now,” Corbin said when asked that question before the game. “Take it while it's there. That's how we look at it.”
Take it while it’s there seemed to be Portland’s offensive strategy.
The Blazers, who’ve had impressive wins over Indiana and Oklahoma City this week, scored 39 points in the first quarter while opening up a 17-point lead, and that wasn’t even their best quarter.
Weber State legend Damian Lillard didn’t score a point in the second half, and he still outscored everybody on the Jazz team with 21 first-half points.
The Blazers had their best offensive first half of the season (67 points), drained a franchise-record 17 of 23 3-pointers (NBA record 73.9 percent), shot 55.4 percent overall and led by six touchdowns at one point.
“They shot the ball well,” Hayward said. “They played well.”
To state the obvious, Utah didn’t.
Hayward was the only starter in double figures, but he had just 10 points on 5-of-12 shooting. As a team, the Jazz shot 41.9 percent while suffering their worst loss of the season.
It was so bad defensively for Utah, Blazers fans were cheering in the third quarter for the free breakfast sandwiches awarded to those in attendance when the home team scores 100 points.
The crowd got the satisfaction of earning free fast food at the 1:47 mark of the third when Wesley Matthews drained one of his four 3-pointers.
That trey put the Blazers ahead 102-65, and that wasn’t even Portland’s biggest lead.
When the third quarter mercifully ended — after it began with a 10-0 Rip City run — the Jazz were behind 107-69 after a massive 40-point period by Portland.
That made the Blazers’ 39-point first quarter look like an offensive struggle for the sizzling home team.
“They were up 11 at the half and it turned into 20 or 25 like immediately,” Hayward lamented. “It snowballed on us and then it just got out of control.”
Utah then fell behind by 42 points, its largest deficit of the season, when backup forward Thomas Robinson hit a jumper to make it 130-88 with three minutes remaining.
“You give up 40 points in the (third) quarter and a 39-point (first) quarter, they weren’t on the floor,” Corbin said. “They shot the ball well, but I thought they were the aggressive team on both ends.”
Fans chanted M-V-P whenever LaMarcus Aldridge shot free throws, and the Blazers power forward didn’t disappoint his ardent supporters. In another stellar showing, Aldridge scored 20 points with 15 rebounds.
He wasn’t the only Portland player who looked like MVP material.
Lillard, the reigning rookie of the year, completely dominated Jazz point guard Trey Burke in their first regular-season matchup. Burke only scored seven points, played just 16 minutes and received a tongue lashing from Corbin after a defensive mishap gave Lillard a wide-open look from beyond the arc.
“This league is a tough league,” Corbin said. “You’ve got to come to play and that’s not just him, that’s everybody.”
Kanter, starting for missing forward Marvin Williams (heel), was also pulled early from both halves and saw just 20 minutes of action. No starter played more than Hayward’s 23 minutes, which might help the Jazz be fresh when the host the Sacramento Kings Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
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