We're LIVE at the Rose Garden, where it's Groundhog Day all over again for the Blazers and Jazz. For the second time in as many nights, the Northwest Division foes meet, with the venue shifting from Plum Alley (why yes, I had to look that up) to Rip City.
You can almost hear the opening bars to "I Got You Babe" as Utah enters with the same tough-nosed defense and low-post dominance that wrapped up Portland like Ned Ryerson on Friday night during an 86-77 Jazz win. This, despite 26 points from perennial Western Conference Rookie of the Month Damian Lillard in a homecoming of sorts for the Weber State product and ROtY lock.
Al Jefferson led the Jazz with 21 points and 10 rebounds last night, but the question tonight is who will get Utah's biggest man the ball. The Jazz will be especially thin at point guard with both Mo Williams and Earl Watson ailing, while Utah will also lack the services of sixth man Gordon Haywood. For Portland, Wes Matthews—who tweaked his ankle something fierce in Utah last night—is a late scratch, while Ronnie Price is inactive.
After an unseasonably sunny day in the Rose City, which shorthanded squad will see its shadow first? Click past the jump to find out.
Utah (25-21)—F Marvin Williams, F Paul Millsap, C Al Jefferson, G Randy Foye, G Jamal Tinsley
Portland (23-23)—F Nicolas Batum, F LaMarcus Aldridge, C JJ Hickson,
G Wesley Matthews G Victor Claver, G Damian Lillard
11:22—Jazz win the opening tip and after an offensive board, Jefferson flips one in for the first bucket of the game. Utah out to the early lead physically and scoreboard-ally.
10:42—Lillard finds Aldridge off a double team and LA hits his patented mid-range jumper from the top of the key. We're tied at 2.
9:04—Jefferson with a nice pass to a cutting Millsap, who leisurely puts in an uncontested layup. Defensive breakdown for the Blazers, who are getting some good minutes early from Claver. He already has three rebounds.
6:47—Batum finds Hickson inside, and he jams one home two-handed. Blazers pull within four—12-8.
5:29—Batum hits Portland's first 3-pointer of the night to pull Portland within a bucket at 16-13. Each Jazz starter has scored in this one, and Utah is shooting better than 60% so far.
4:45—Timeout on the floor as Portland has it within a point after Hickson scores one in the paint +1. He misses the free throw, and we're back at it despite some technical difficulties on the Internet access (NOT THAT I NEED IT TO LIVE-BLOG OR ANYTHING).
3:10—Lillard with a nice little drive and scoop to bring the Blazers within four. On the other end, Nolan Smith checks in.
2:17—Smith's first pass is picked off, but the Jazz can't convert on the other end as Jefferson misses a jumper. Still, Utah is shooting 62% at this point, which either can't last or can't be a good thing for the Blazers.
1:26—After passing up a 3 to drive and dish on one possession, Batum drains his second 3 of the night on the next. Blazers pull within a point, but the hot-shooting Jazz still lead 23-22.
0:00—Smith a little floater on the baseline to give the Blazers the lead in the final second of the quarter. The Jazz have come back down to earth from the field and are shooting 47% behind nine points from Marvin Williams. But Portland leads 24-23, led by Batum's eight points and four assists.
11:07—A nice dish by Aldridge is spoiled by a Smith miss. On the other end, Meyers Leonard is called for a foul and Favors ties the game at 26 from the foul line.
10:25—Batum lob attempt to Smith, but the latter can't find the handle and steps on the baseline on his way down. Smith shows a frustrated smile after Portland's third turnover of the night.
8:48—Timeout on the floor with the Blazers holding to a 28-27 lead. Batum is having himself a game so far, evenly packing the stats with eight points, five rebounds and four assists. After Utah had a field day down low last night, Portland has a 14-6 edge in points in the paint.
7:19—After Carroll hits a jumper on one end to put the Jazz up three, he lets Hickson spin right around him for a dunk. Still, Jazz lead 31-30 in what's been a sloppy second quarter for both sides.
5:56—Aldridge gets smacked in the face by Carroll as we go to an official's timeout. It didn't look intentional, and Carroll certainly didn't look like he felt guilty about it. Jazz lead 35-30 thanks to a 9-2 run, while the Blazers' FG percentage has dipped below 40%.
5:08—An illegal pick called on Hickson and the Blazers have eight turnovers. The pace is slowing down quite a bit and that's working to Utah's advantage.
4:09—Aldridge goes to the line for the first time tonight after Millsap's face fouls his elbow. He converts one of two, and Portland pulls within four points, 37-33.
3:54—Millsap goes right back at Aldridge, scoring it +1. He hits the free throw and the Jazz lead by seven.
3:36—Now Aldridge goes after Millsap, taking it to his chest and hitting a leaner +1. But he misses the free throw and the Jazz are up 40-35. It's turned into a two-man game down low over these past couple possessions.
2:24—Lillard takes over, hitting back-to-back 3s to give Portland the 41-40 lead. The Rose Garden crowd wakes up a bit as the rookie steps up to close out the half. Special.
0:52—Jazz answer the Blazers' mini-run with six straight points. Jefferson hooks one in and Utah leads 46-41.
0:29—The Blazers look tentative as the shot clock winds down. For some reason, the ball ends up in Luke Babbitt's hands, and as the red numbers tick away, Luke throws one into the fourth row. Bad possession? Yeah.
HALFTIME: Utah leads 46-43 behind 11 points from Williams. Utah came out shooting hot but cooled to a 47% clip while Portland has turned it over 10 times. Lillard leads all scorers with 12 points, while Batum is threatening a triple-double with 10 points, six rebounds and four assists.
An interesting stat from Ben Golliver of Blazers Edge: "In 99 combined minutes over last 1 1/2 games vs. Jazz, Blazers bench has 16 points. Jazz's DeMarre Carroll has 20 points in 29 minutes." Yikes.
10:42—Both teams bring their starters back on and come out shooting blanks. After nearly 90 seconds of scoreless ball, Claver nails a 3-pointer to tie it up at 46.
8:37—Williams hits a jumper and he has 13 points and six rebounds. After a fruitless Portland possession, Foye nails a 3 from the right wing as the shot clock winds down to put the Jazz up 53-46.
7:30—The Jazz are on an 11-2 run (their second of the night) after two FTs by Millsap, and they lead by nine—Utah's biggest of the night.
6:57—And now Foye hits his fourth 3-pointer of the game and the Jazz lead 60-50. Portland better be careful not to let this one get out of hand.
6:02—Foye with another 3-pointer from the top of the key and the Rose Garden is eerily quiet. Timeout on the floor and the Jazz lead 63-53.
5:20—Millsap rips it from Lillard as the rookie is flying toward the rim. His arm catches the iron and he lands pretty hard, but appears to be just fine. Greg Oden would've shattered into a thousand pieces right there.
4:56—Lillard with a jumper and Portland's scored four straight. Here we go—the rookie again leading the charge.
4:26—Now Babbitt hits a 3 (his first of the night) and Portland is within a bucket.
3:57—After a Jazz miss, Lillard finds Barton under the rim and Will sneaks in a reverse layup. It took a few minutes to start this half, but the Blazers have woken up and pull within a point. It's a 9-0 run for Portland, but the Jazz still lead 63-62.
3:23—Lillard with a 3-pointer from the top of the key and this game has completely flipped. Blazers lead 65-63 as the Utah offense has completely disappeared. Lillard has 19 points and six assists.
2:30—Barton takes over now, dribbling around and driving to the lane before flipping one in. Blazers with their biggest lead of the night, 67-63.
0:42—Jefferson clangs one home to break a 14-0 Blazer run and 5+minute scoreless stretch for Utah.
0:29—On the other end, Aldridge goes strong after a rebound and is fouled by everyone on the floor as he lays it in. He completes the 3-point play and Portland leads 70-65.
0:01—Barton finds a cutting Aldridge on the baseline, and LA jams it home. That'll be it for a quarter that saw the Blazers trail by as many as 10 before roaring back to a five-point lead thanks to nine straight misses by the Jazz. Quite a turnaround, and it's much-needed for a Portland team that's about to embark on a six-game road trip. Can they close this one out and salvage the split with Utah?
11:28—Hickson with a turnaround J that rattles home and the Blazers are up eight. Jazz are running their big lineup out there, and Portland would be smart to pick up the pace here.
10:21—Carroll hits a jumper and then is called for a technical foul Batum misses the foul shot (Portland is just 7 of 12 tonight), but the Blazers will have it with a five-point lead.
10:11—Make that eight. Smith nails a 3-pointer (yeah, you read that right; Nolan Smith) and Portland leads 79-71.
9:32—Jazz pulls within a bucket as Millsap converts a foul +1. Aldridge checking back in, along with Lillard.
8:05—Someone named Alec Burks just tied this one at 79 with a 3-pointer from the left wing. This one feels like a college game with each side exchanging crazy runs. Lillard leads all scorers with 19 points, while Aldridge and Hickson each have 14. Jazz have five players in double figures, but three of them are on the bench at the moment.
7:08—Babbitt smoothly sidesteps one defender and nails a 3 from the left corner. Big. Blazers lead 82-79.
6:07—Aldridge with a large, leaping block to follow another calmly executed Lillard jumper, and the Blazers are in business, up three points with the ball.
4:41—Hickson with a great pass to a cutting Smith, who lays it in on the baseline. Smith now has nine points and a couple fewer naysayers. Nice ball movement in general from Portland, which is on a 7-2 run. Timeout on the floor the Blazers are back to 50% shooting on the night.
3:51—Tinsley hits a pair of free throws to pull Utah within a bucket, 90-87. Batum checks back in for Babbitt.
3:31—Nolan Smith with a 3-pointer from the right corner (because why not, right?) and the Blazers are back up by six.
2:08—Timeout on the floor after Hickson is fouled going to the hoop off a Lillard dish. Hickson hits both and the Blazers lead 95-89.
1:33—After Foye misses a 3-point attempt (a rarity tonight), Batum finds Aldridge on the baseline for a quick-turn fadeaway. Blazers push their lead to three possessions, 97-91.
0:59.6—Hickson fouled on the way to the hoop. He hits one of two and the Blazers lead 98-91. Timeout on the floor as Utah plans its last stand.
0:48.1—Millsap misses a 3 and Aldridge is fouled hard without the ball on a rebound attempt. He's fine, but not fine enough to convert from the charity stripe. WITH CHALUPAS WITHIN HIS GRASP, he misses both free throws and the Jazz rebound and call a timeout. Murmurs on press row about Aldridge's fourth quarter FT struggles likely match what's being said under breath across the arena.
0:43.6—Foye goes straight to the hoop and is fouled by Lillard. Dangerous one there by the rookie—if you're going to foul Foye, make sure he doesn't get that good of a shot off. Foye missed, but it was too close for comfort. Now he hits both and the Jazz pull within five. Blazers lead 98-93.
0:41.4—Smith is immediately fouled. He goes to the line and hits one of two. Portland leads 99-93.
0:33.9—Oh boy, Foye nails a 3-pointer from the left wing. That's his sixth of the night, and the Jazz are within a bucket, 99-96. Curse of the Chalupa? The Blazers have left three crucial free throws on the table late here, and it may just come back to bite them.
0:19.9—Jazz nearly get a steal but Williams fouls Hickson on a dangerous pass (read: a bit too lazy for this point in the game) by Lillard. JJ steps to the line and hits 'em both, and the Blazers lead 101-96. Finally, somebody in white hits a pair of clutch free throws and we all get shitty food.
0:15.8—Another bad foul by Lillard, who gets Foye on the floor. Randy hits one of two, and the second one is a huge miss. Portland leads 101-97 and the Blazers have the ball, a two-possession lead and two timeouts. Utah is out of timeouts, which pretty much means this one is over.
0:14.5—Hickson calmly hits two more free throws. Blazers lead 103-97. Ballgame.
0:08.9—Batum is fouled hard on his injured wrist by Tinsley (cheeky) and goes to the line. The Frenchman buries both, and the Blazers have put this one away.
FINAL: Blazers win 105-99. Portland overcomes a 10-point third-quarter deficit to get a huge win before they take off for six road games in 11 days.
Five Blazers in double-figures: Lillard leads the way with 23 points and eight assists. Hickson has 21 points and 11 rebounds, Aldridge has 18 points and 11 boards, Batum scores 12 points, nabs 10 boards and doles nine assists and Nolan Smith adds 13 points. The Jazz are led by 23 points from Foye, while Millsap has 18 points and eight rebounds and Williams starts fast and finishes with 15 points. The Blazers starting core continues to impress, and without Matthews tonight, role players filled shoes and shined.
Where do you start with this team? Lillard, once again, shows he's cool beyond his years; getting his shot with ease and sensing when to take over the offense. Hickson is the hardest working player on the court every time he's out there. Batum has committed to being the ball-hawking, court visionary he showed flashes of (alongside the dagger-like range) before signing the big deal. And while Aldridge is officially struggling a bit, he's being picked up by teammates, including (out of nowhere) Smith, who's struggled mightily at times this season but looked (dare I say?) confident in stretches despite a shaky start. Hell, even Barton and Babbitt had their moments tonight, giving the Blazers some sorely needed mojo heading into a long road haul.
Blazers shoot an even 50% from the field to overcome 16 turnovers(!) and poor free-throw shooting down the stretch, and they'll eek their way above a .500 record once again.
Next up for Portland? Minnesota and a 5 p.m. tip on Monday. They return home 17 days from now on Tuesday, Feb. 19 against Phoenix.