Many things can transpire over the course of a 48-minute game. After getting down by double-digits minutes into the game, the Utah Jazz took their time and capitalized on stellar second and third quarters to steal a huge road victory over division rivals Portland Trailblazers, 102-97.
The win kept the Jazz right in the thick of things, just one game behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth playoff seed. Meanwhile, Portland continues their inconsistent play, dropping to 25-29 on the season.
Middle quarters: Portland came out on all cylinders, hitting jump shot after jump shot. At one point, they had drained seven of eight (87.5 percent) three-pointers. With 5:47 left in the second quarter, the Trailblazers increased their lead to 48-34. It was then that the Utah Jazz took control.
Over the span of the next 11 minutes, the Jazz went on a remarkable 37-12 run. Behind offensive forays by Paul Millsap and Gordon Hayward, the terrific defense of Derrick Favors, and the playmaking of Jamaal Tinsley, Utah took control of the game’s momentum. While it see-sawed down the stretch—including a 97-94 deficit with 2:34 left—Utah used this integral run to propel them to the win.
Big line-up: For the first time this season, Utah head coach Tyrone Corbin went with a new line-up that caused mismatches with its length, versatility, and tenacity. The non-traditional line-up of Al Jefferson, Favors, Millsap, Hayward, and Devin Harris opened up things in the second quarter. Tinsley came in when Harris suffered an ankle injury and the line-up did not skip a beat.
Fantastic frontcourt: It is difficult for teams to lose when three players finish the game with double-doubles. No one was bigger Monday evening than Paul Millsap. He hit crucial shots all night, especially in the fourth quarter as he countered Portland’s clutch shooting time after time. When the game finished, his hard work and smooth moves resulted in 31 points on 14 of 20 field goals, along with 11 rebounds.
While his numbers may not scream out, Favors’ presence made the Jazz extremely formidable defensively and on the boards. He finished with 11 rebounds and 11 points in 31 minutes. It was a rare opportunity for the second-year forward to play alongside the starting bigs.
Jefferson’s shot was off, as he struggled against a long defender in LaMarcus Aldridge. He still managed to contribute 13 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists for Utah.
Last but not least, Hayward played a good part of his minutes at the small forward slot. So when you add his 20 points (including three triples), the Jazz front court were the main drivers behind the win.
Odds n’ ends:
- After the aforementioned seven of eight start, Portland cooled down the rest of the game on their three-point attack, going five of their last 14 from beyond the arc.
- Much has been said about the back-up point guard minutes. Both had their moments, but in regards to the +/- statistic, Tinsley was +15 (in 18 minutes) compared to Earl Watson’s -4.
- Starting swingman C.J. Miles saw just seven minutes, all in the first half. Back-up DeMarre Carroll had just four.
- Former Jazz diamond-in-the-rough, Welsey Matthews, played a brilliantly efficient game: 33 points on 10 of 12 field goals, five of six treys, and eight of 10 free throws.
- Portland’s bench combined to shoot just six of 19 from the floor.
- Utah’s Alec Burks struggled with his shooting, but registered five assists, including the one that set up Millsap’s go-ahead dunk in the fourth quarter.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.