After winning the first of back-to-back games against division rival Portland, the Utah Jazz appeared to be heading toward a second victory Saturday. Instead, the Jazz squandered a 10-point third-quarter lead and suffered a painful loss, 105-99.
As has happened a few times this season — especially on the road — Utah could not maintain a lead down the stretch. The Jazz started to play a little tentatively, while their opponents assumed the role of aggressors. The come-from-behind victory was huge for Portland and its tenuous playoff hopes in a very competitive Western Conference.
Unexpected heroes: The two rosters had the appearance of a MASH unit. With both teams missing key pieces (Gordon Hayward and Mo Williams for the Jazz; Wesley Matthews and Ronnie Price for the Blazers), several other players came in and rose to the occasion.
For Portland, Nolan Smith and Will Barton were the guys that fit this description. Both have been in and out of coach Terry Stotts’ rotation, but if they continue to play like they did against the Jazz, their playing time will become more consistent.
Smith, who had been averaging just 2.9 points and 7.3 minutes per game, made the most of the opportunity. He was confident and did not back down. He hit 5 of 7 from the floor, put up 13 points and two assists, and played solid defense on the Utah backcourt. Likewise, Barton, who had been posting 3.3 points and 10.6 minutes per outing, also made his impact felt with seven points, three rebounds and two assists in 16 minutes
For coach Tyrone Corbin and the Utah Jazz, DeMarre Carroll continues to impress. He nailed all five of his field goal attempts and scored a much-needed 13 points off the bench.
Odds and Ends:
• Five individuals from both teams scored in double figures.
• After connecting on nine of its first 14 field goal attempts, Utah could only manage to shoot 30-76 the rest of the way (39.5 percent).
• Jazz center Al Jefferson handed out an impressive five assists in the first nine minutes the game, but did not register another one the rest of the way.
• None of Portland's three former Jazz players saw the court Saturday night.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. 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.