Lillard: Return to Utah, Appreciation for All the Support
Salt Lake City – “Portland's one of those teams that no matter how many points they are down, as they proved the other night in Dallas, they can get it going,” said Al Jefferson of the Utah Jazz after tonight's game.
The Portland Trail Blazers had the Jazz right where they wanted them as they were down 12 points going into the fourth quarter. Of course being behind double-digits isn't a recipe for success.
But try telling that to the Trail Blazers.
Time in and time out this team has overcome some huge deficits this season like in their last game against Dallas as Jefferson pointed out. They came back to win that game after being down 21 points.
As for tonight's game, the Trail Blazers started the fourth on a 14-7 run in an eight-minute span to trim the lead to seven. But the Jazz turned up their defense limiting the Trail Blazers to only two points in the final four minutes of the game, winning by a score of 86-77 at EnergySolutions Arena.
“We had a tough time scoring,” Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts said. “We scored a little bit more when we put Luke [Babbitt] in the game and he opened up the court. For the night though, we had trouble scoring, we missed easy baskets and shots were on the basket, but you have those nights.”
Jefferson paved the way for the Jazz (26-21) with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Reserve Derrick Favors grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds in 23 minutes.
In the first half, the Jazz played some stifling defense as they flew around the court trapping and smothering the Trail Blazers, forcing them into tough, contested shots.
The Trail Blazers (23-23) shot 32 percent in that first half and 36 percent for the game.
“We took away the three,” Jazz guard Randy Foye said. “I know the rookie Damian [Lillard] got some late, but I think early on we took away the three and made them score two's.”
Lillard had his second homecoming-type game of the season being that his former college Weber State is only 40 miles away from the arena. Roughly 200 student and faculty members from his old stomping ground came out to show their support.
During the introduction of the starting lineup, Lillard received an ovation so loud you might have thought you were at the Rose Garden.
For that, he made sure he put on a a show.
Lillard scored 14 of his game-high 26 points in the third quarter and added five assists. Postgame, he acknowledged it felt good to have so many people pulling for him.
“It just felt like a welcome home,” the three-time Rookie of the Month said. “People I have been around for the last four years coming to support me even though all of them are probably long-time Jazz fans. For them to cheer that loud when I came out, it meant a lot.”
LaMarcus Aldridge produced 16 points and nine rebounds. JJ Hickson added 11 points and six rebounds.
Wesley Matthews rolled his right ankle with 4:13 left in third quarter after driving baseline. He stayed down momentarily before being being helped off the court by Hickson and Jared Jeffries. He headed to the locker room for X-Rays, they came back negative and he would not return.
Following the game, he was receiving treatment and before he left the arena, he put on a walking boot and was handed crutches. He was not available for comment due to getting treatment but he did tell CSNNW.com that he will see how it feels in the morning before commenting on if he'll play tomorrow night.
Ronnie Price even rolled his right ankle tonight in the fourth, fortunately it's the same ankle he's been dealing with all season long and he isn't expected to miss any time because of it.
The Trail Blazers are one game behind the eighth and final playoff spot (Houston) in the Western Conference standings and they now fall to two and a half games behind the Jazz.
Tomorrow night's game is the second of a back-to-back, home-and-home featuring these two teams in Portland.