We weren’t as sharp as we’ve been before and those guys played good, that’s a very good team and they did a great job tonight. —Jazz center Rudy Gobert
SALT LAKE CITY — There was a lot going on at Vivint Arena on Friday night.
The Utah Jazz were returning from NBA All-Star break.
It was International Night.
Former Jazz star Darrell Griffith was in attendance to present rookie Donovan Mitchell with his slam dunk contest trophy ahead of the tipoff.
Ricky Rubio returned to the starting lineup from a three-game absence with left hip soreness.
Then to top things off, Utah was riding a league-best 11-game win streak with all eyes on them to see how they would come out of the break.
Despite all the excitement and energy in the building, the Jazz’s hot streak ended after a 100-81 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Utah turned the ball over 20 times, allowing 22 points off the mishaps.
“We weren’t as sharp as we’ve been before and those guys played good, that’s a very good team and they did a great job tonight,” said Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who ended with 15 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and two steals.
During the break, the Jazz were able to practice a couple times, but they hadn’t played in a game since Feb. 14. That lack of activity was certainly apparent as the Jazz allowed 14 second-chance points and fell behind by as many as 19.
“I mean, you’re off for like a week so you’re going to come back kind of rusty by not practicing and not being around the team to sharpen things up,” said Jazz forward Derrick Favors, who contributed four points and nine rebounds. “So, I think that’s what happened tonight. Luckily, we got that out the way, we’ve got another game tomorrow so we’ve just got to come back better.”
In Rubio’s return, he put up four points with four rebounds but turned the ball over three times in 19 minutes. Mitchell led the squad with 21 points on 8-for-20 shooting for his 28th game of 20-plus points this season and new addition Jae Crowder posted 11 points.
Joe Ingles would end with 12 points with a pair of treys, but the one-two punch of Portland guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum was too much to handle as they combined for 50 points. Lillard put up 24 points and McCollum added 26 points.
Utah made a late run in the fourth quarter, trimming the deficit to 90-81 after a Crowder jumper at 3:05, but McCollum caught fire with three consecutive jumpers to help Portland close the game on a 10-0 run.
“I get a lot of reps throughout the year, I work on a lot of shots off the dribble, a lot of off-balance stuff,” McCollum said. “I feel like one-on-one, or even if the big is coming and they’re kind of off balance and I’m coming downhill, I feel like I can get a good quality shot every time and down the stretch I can live with the miss or the make because I’ve gotten thousands and thousands of reps.”
Lillard said it was important for the team to set the tone after the All-Star break as they continue to make a playoff push. Utah wasn’t a team to take lightly.
“We know that this second half of the season is when it has to happen, it’s when you’ve got to get the job done and you can have a great first half of the season and it can fall apart in the second half,” said Lillard, a Weber State product. “We knew coming in here how important this was, especially with how hot they are, where the teams are in the standings. We knew what it had to be and we came in here with that type of mentality.”
Utah (30-29) won’t have time to sulk over the tough loss. The Jazz are right back at it Saturday night with another home game against the Dallas Mavericks at 7 p.m. in Vivint Arena.
Guys know what they have to do.
“We’ll come back ready tomorrow,” Ingles promised.