Utah has made a habit of playing neck-and-neck with their opponents of late. And fortunately for Tyrone Corbin and his players, the Jazz came out on the winning end of things Monday, defeating Northwest Division rival Portland in an intense, 48-minute grind-it-out of a game, 93-89.

Paul Millsap continues to be relentless, offering 19 points and 15 rebounds to lead five Jazz players in double figures. The Jazz reserves also were crucial in turning the tide as Utah battled through some struggles to come out victorious.

Portland was led by All-NBA forward Lamarcus Aldridge’s 25 points.

Ugly First Half: Where to begin? Here’s where the Jazz sat after 24 minutes: 14 of 46 from the field (30.4 percent), just 1 of 6 on three-pointers, and 10-15 from the free throw line. They had more turnovers (seven) than assists (just five) on the stat sheet. And after managing just 20 points in the first quarter, they were unable to match that in the second (19).

The individual shooting: Gordon Hayward 0-8, Paul Millsap 2-7, Enes Kanter 1-5, Alec Burks 0-2.

All that said, thanks to some strong rebounding work (27 boards) and some decent defense (five steals, four blocked shots), Utah found themselves down by just six at halftime — 45-39.

Not So Ugly Second Half: Minus a bout of nervous free throw shooting, the second half was an entirely different story. There was increased activity, teamwork, and defensive effort. As has been the case many times this year, Earl Watson was the leader with his energy being contagious.

After that miserable first half, Hayward settled down, going 3 for 4 from the field, while drilling a pair of treys. He also was clutch down the stretch, blocking a Jamal Crawford lay-up, stealing the ball from Nicolas Batum, and snaring the offensive board of a missed free throw with two second left and subsequently sinking the clinching free throws.

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Utah improved greatly by hitting 18 of 38 field goals (47.3 percent). They also upped their assists (10) and decreased the miscues (four second-half turnovers).

Hitting the Boards: Missing Al Jefferson and his 9.0 rebounds per game? No problem. At least that was the case Monday evening. Leading rebounder Millsap’s 15 boards paced the way as the Jazz outrebounded the Blazers 51-37. To support him, rookie rebounding sensation Enes Kanter had eight caroms, Josh Howard finished with seven, and Derrick Favors grabbed six. Not to be outdone, mighty mite Watson added five of his own.

Last Observations:

  • For the first time in his career, Kanter went the entire fourth quarter and did an outstanding job limiting Aldridge, using his big frame to push him out of his desired spots.
  • What more can be said about Watson? His line speaks for itself: six points, five steals (and the aforementioned five boards), four assists. And connected to Watson is…
  • …forward Jeremy Evans, who connected with his playmaking teammate for a momentum building dunk in the fourth. The second-year pro’s energy was integral.
  • Nicolas Batum was deadly in the last stanza, nailing four three-pointers. The only person who could stop him was himself, as he exited early with what looks like a knee injury.

David Smith is providing instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage this season. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at mechakucha1@gmail.com or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.