A couple of rough performances for us, especially at home, but I’m proud of the way we played today. We guarded them. We’re going into the break with a win, so it feels good. —Jazz All-Star forward Gordon Hayward
SALT LAKE CITY — Though the Utah Jazz entered Wednesday on a three-game losing streak, Quin Snyder said there was no additional drama heading into the final game before the All-Star break.
He wasn’t drawing a line in the sand. He didn’t consider it a make or break game. It’s a long season, and this was just one of 82.
At least that’s what he said.
Even so, a 111-88 win over the Portland Trail Blazers couldn’t have come at a better time.
Coach speak aside, the Jazz needed this one after blowing a 21-point lead in a loss at Dallas and suffering rough back-to-back home losses to Boston and the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I’m proud that we bounced back,” All-Star forward Gordon Hayward said. “A couple of rough performances for us, especially at home, but I’m proud of the way we played today. We guarded them. We’re going into the break with a win, so it feels good.”
The night began with Hayward being honored in front of Jazz fans with his No. 20 Western Conference All-Star jersey.
Moments later, Hayward surpassed the team’s last All-Star, Deron Williams, on the franchise’s all-time scoring list. The seventh-year small forward moved into the No. 8 spot by scoring 22 points, giving him 7,588 compared to the 7,576 D-Will scored in a Jazz jersey from 2005-11.
“It was exciting,” Hayward said of the pregame ovation. “It’s a great feeling, especially to be able to do it for the fans. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Like the Jazz, Hayward started this game off rather cold from the field. He made only 2 of 9 field goals in the first half. Utah, which gave up an 11-0 Portland run to end the second quarter, shot just 37.5 percent before intermission.
After falling behind early in the third quarter, Hayward hit a 3-pointer to put Utah ahead 45-43 and spark a dominating second half. He drained six of nine shots in the second half and the Jazz heated up to finish shooting 51.9 percent overall thanks to 65.9 percent shooting after the break.
Joe Ingles and George Hill followed Hayward’s lead with their own threes as the Jazz went on a 9-0 spurt that turned into a 20-4 run. Utah then put the game away with its own 11-0 surge in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Portland never could sustain its offense. The Blazers shot just 40.5 percent.
“We were making all of their shots difficult all night,” Hayward said. “The bigs did a good job of being up, helping out the guards. The guards did a good job of funneling them to the bigs, so it was a total team effort.”
Snyder liked that his players had to turn to defense in order to win this game because their shots weren’t falling at first.
“You just have to be mentally tough and keep grinding, keep working and hopefully eventually you’ll see the ball go in on the other end,” he said, “and eventually it did.”
Hill finished with 19 points and Ingles added 18, while Rudy Gobert (12 rebounds, three blocks) and Joe Johnson each contributed 13 points.
Utah’s guards made life hard on former Weber State guard Damian Lillard, who missed 16 of 19 shots en route to scoring 13 points. Backcourt mate CJ McCollum was held in check with 18 points.
“Obviously the way we played the last three (was) a bit not the style we wanted to,” Ingles said. “We wanted to come out, play aggressive and physical. CJ and Damian are obviously two pretty powerful scorers, so just limit theirs, make it as tough as we could, and I think we did a good job of that.”
Even with the current three-game losing streak, the Jazz enter the nine-day break with a 35-22 record, only five wins shy of their 2015-16 season record. Utah next plays a week from Friday in Milwaukee.
“I think it’s great just to have that positive win,” Jazz guard Dante Exum said after scoring 12 points. “It was a good win over a good team. Hopefully we can carry that over and have a bit of a break and come back strong.”