Book was amazing. He was all over the boards, all over the rim, had tempo. It was a great team win, against a team that was hungry. —Rodney Hood
PORTLAND, Ore. — It can be debated as to when the Utah Jazz began turning an eye toward next season, but officially, both eyes shifted toward the 2015-16 season Saturday night.
Resting starters Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, Utah dipped deep into its bench but might have found something for the future in a 111-105 win over Portland.
In a nutshell, it was a night for offense as Utah's 111-point total tied for its second-highest of the season.
Trevor Booker led the way, as the Jazz forward hit 12 of 15 shots and scored a career-high 36 points.
Booker, whose previous season high was 17 points, had that beat by the end of the first quarter, in which he scored 19.
"Trevor Booker was just amazing. He scored a lot, but he got them in the flow of the game," Utah coach Quin Snyder said.
Booker's previous career high was 26 points while playing for Denver in 2011.
"Definitely, the win made it feel a lot better. Just one of those nights where I had it going. My teammates did a good job of finding me," Booker said.
Rodney Hood had 21 points as Utah (37-43) had six players score in double figures. The Jazz outrebounded the Northwest Division-champion Blazers 48-39. Rudy Gobert led the way with 11 boards.
In addition to Hayward and Favors sitting out, Trey Burke didn't make the trip to Portland in order to rest a sore back. Burke has missed four of Utah's past five games.
Maybe all the parts weren't familiar, but the Jazz loved the results.
"We knew with (Hayward, Favors) out, we had to play even harder and be more connected, at both ends of the floor. We gutted out a win," Hood said. "Book was amazing. He was all over the boards, all over the rim, had tempo. It was a great team win, against a team that was hungry."
Portland may not have noticed this Jazz squad. In three previous games this season, Hayward, Favors and Burke combined for 59 percent of Utah's scoring against the Blazers.
Portland (51-29) also played without a full deck, as starters LaMarcus Aldridge (foot) and Arron Afflalo (shoulder) were sidelined. Aldridge sat out mostly to rest, as the Blazers are all but assured of the West's No. 4 playoff seed.
With Utah long since out of the playoff chase, Snyder is using the final games to experiment with different player combinations. At least Saturday night, the experiment was conducted at the expense of Hayward and Favor's playing time.
"With those two guys, that's one of the things you love about them. If we ask them to sit and obviously explain what our logic is, they understand," Snyder said before the game.
As experiments go, the chemistry mixed well early on. With Booker hitting two 3-pointers to start Utah's scoring, the Jazz led 11-2 before the game was four minutes old. The Blazers pulled even at 15, but Utah took off again, outscoring Portland 17-4 during the final five minutes of the first quarter to take a 32-19 lead.
Booker was 6 of 7 from the floor, including 3 of 3 from 3-point range, with six rebounds, during his first-quarter assault.
Asked if he's ever had a start to a game like that, Booker recalled a late-season game last April against Boston.
"I had 20 in the first half," said Booker, "and I ended the game with 20."
That wasn't the case Saturday, as Booker scored 15 points during the second half.
Utah led 56-46 at halftime but couldn't sustain its momentum. Portland, led by 10 points from Damian Lillard, outscored the Jazz 34-21 during the third quarter to take an 80-77 lead.
But the Jazz regrouped and it made for an interesting finish. Utah scored 13 consecutive points early in the fourth quarter to grab a 94-86 lead. It was short-lived, as Portland came back, pulling even at 101 on a Robin Lopez layup with 2:33 left.
Hood hit a 10-footer with 2:17 remaining to give Utah the lead for good at 103-101. The Jazz were successful in a last-minute parade to the free-throw line, ultimately winning for the sixth time in eight games.
"They fought back, what you'd expect from a playoff team. We took their best punch and kept on fighting," Booker said.
Two games remain in Utah's season — Monday at home against Dallas and Wednesday at Houston. Expect to see more lineup tinkering from the Jazz in the final two games.
"It's really simple. Any way we can use the game to get better, we're going to try to do it. We're going to play different combinations and see where it takes us," Snyder said.