Behind a strong third quarter, it appeared the Utah Jazz were on their way toward a road win versus the Portland Trail Blazers early in the fourth. Damian Lillard had something to say about that as he led a furious Portland charge that changed the tide, propelling the Blazers to a 102-94 victory.
Lillard showed exactly why he is the reigning Rookie of the Year and now a one-time NBA All-Star. The speedy point guard scored 11 of his game-high 28 points in the last 12 minutes. Utah’s backcourt had no answer as he made big play after big play. Combined with center Robin Lopez’s dominant work defensively and on the boards, Portland totally decimated the Jazz with a 38-21 fourth quarter.
Both squads were without their big men as Derrick Favors and LaMarcus Aldridge were both out with injuries. Portland, who had been struggling recently, won an important game in the ongoing Western Conference playoff battle. Utah lost its second consecutive game following the All-Star break.
Former Jazzmen: Including Lillard, the Trail Blazers feature several players with ties to Utah. Former Jazz guards Wesley Matthews and Mo Williams both had strong outings that contributed to the Portland win.
Matthews, who was a viable All-Star candidate, hit 9-of-17 shots from the floor en route to 24 points. His strong shooting has been one of the keys to his team’s surprising success this season. Williams has embraced his sixth man role in Portland, playing strong minutes off the bench all season. While his shot was a bit off, he too made some big plays in the fourth quarter. Williams chipped in 13 points and four rebounds.
Promising signs: Despite the loss, a trio of Utah players put in some positive performances. For the second straight game, Enes Kanter had a strong outing filling in for Favors. In fact, the Turkish big man had arguably his best game of the season with 25 points (12-of-20 shooting), 10 rebounds, three blocked shots and a career-best four assists.
The All-Star break seems to be doing wonders for Trey Burke. After hearing much about his run-in with the proverbial rookie wall, he has come on this week. He battled admirably with Lillard, finishing with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
Lastly, Gordon Hayward had a nice response to his struggles of late. He did not force his offense as much, allowing things to come to him. The swingman had 17 points, seven assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
This and that:
• Portland made all 17 of its free-throw attempts.
• Utah’s veteran forwards Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson combined to shoot just 4-of-13. Together they had just 12 points and six rebounds in 60 total minutes.
• One more former Jazz player, Earl Watson, did not play Friday.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.
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