Damian Lillard had 36 points and 11 assists to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 132-105 win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.
Lillard’s backcourt mate CJ McCollum was excellent as well, scoring 30 points in the win.
Donovan Mitchell had 22 points to lead Utah.
McCollum, only one game removed from his first career triple-double, stayed red hot. The Blazers guard made all nine of his shots in the first quarter and had 20 by the end of the period.
Even when he wasn’t shooting, he was still scoring. An attempted lob pass from McCollum to Blazers center Meyers Leonard went in the basket anyway.
McCollum didn’t miss a shot until he clanked a free-throw with 9:02 left in the second quarter and didn’t miss a field goal until later in the period.
After the Jazz cut the Blazers lead that had once been at 27 down to 10 with 7:57 left in the third quarter, the Blazers put the game away scoring the next 17 points.
With the win, the Blazers tied the season series with the Jazz at 2-2.
Portland’s starting center Jusuf Nurkic was a late scratch with a sore right knee.
Jazz: Since Dec. 15, the Utah Jazz have had the best defense in the NBA and they have the second-best in the defense overall. The Jazz improvement on defense has seen them rise in the standings and head coach Quin Snyder believes there were a lot of factors that contributed to the improvement. While the NBA has jumped in pace, averaging two more possessions per game league wide, Snyder believes the pace wasn’t a determining factor in their slow start defensively.
“It was more stylistic and some of it was schedule,” Snyder said. “Some of it was the team kind of remembering on a little deeper level their identity. We had to make a couple of adjustments. Less so based on pace and more so based on certain personnel situations and how we can best utilize our players. Often times you have to see that and feel it not just as a coach but as a player. To commit to it on a deeper level you have to believe in it.”
Trail Blazers: The Blazers and Jazz played on Wednesday night for the 4th time since December 21. With all of the games against the same team in such a short period of time, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said it’s somewhat similar to a playoff setting.
“A little bit,” Stotts said when asked if it was at all like a playoff matchup. “I talked to the team during shoot around today like, we should know some of these calls when they’re going through their sets. We should know these calls by now. Granted it’s not as compact amount of time in a playoff series but there is a degree that you know that team a little bit better than you would if you played them once a month.”
Jazz: At home Friday vs. Hawks.
Trail Blazers: At home Feb. 5 vs. Heat.