The start of this game had all the makings of a miserable slog, the kind of game reserved for tired legs in April. It was a land war in Asia, a bar fight, a slow motion rock toss between two teams hacking away while the refs stood by silently. The Blazers started the game 1-11, their only make a desperation three by Damian Lillard to beat the shot clock buzzer.

So yeah, things were not pretty. This was not the majestic beauty of “basketball as jazz.” The only references to jazz were the four letters adorning the front of Utah’s jerseys.

The Blazers were sloppy with the ball early. Every time they tried to get out and run, they inevitably turned it over or ended up with a contested shot at the rim. Utah plays at the slowest pace in the league and are more than happy to have teams sink to their stuck in wet cement levels. Eat your heart out, Nate McMillan.

Maybe it was because Portland ended their last game against the Thunder in such a thrilling fashion, with Damian Lillard exploding for one of his signature performances, but the start of this game made those ‘90s Heat-Knicks rivalries feel like pretty basketball. This was a game to just check the score once things were over and move on. Thankfully though, for all the first half deficiencies and ugliness, the Blazers came out after the break inspired and totally redeemed themselves.

The third quarter started with Dame sinking back to back triples, the first sign of life Portland’s offense had shown all game. Noah Vonleh threw down a massive right-handed dunk along the baseline around the ever-present Rudy Gobert. Al-Farouq Aminu had two huge blocks, a highlight dunk in transition, and a couple of timely offensive rebounds. Defense led to offense. The pace picked up. Finally, a game broke out.

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Dame did most of the heavy lifting. He put up a hefty 13 points and 5 assists in the third quarter alone, which included a nice dish to Allen Crabbe in the corner for a three to end the quarter. Even better, he had a couple of honest to goodness outstanding plays on defense. Portland’s offense exploded for 34 points in the frame, which eclipsed whatever miserable total they fell into during the first half. Threes fell, fast breaks happened, and the Blazers opened up enough of a lead (15 points) that Dame would sit the entire fourth. He finished the night just three rebounds shy of a triple double.

CJ McCollum started the fourth right where Lillard left off. He had a couple of nice dishes, found some space at the rim, and just like that Portland pushed their lead to an insurmountable twenty points. Things were so out of hand that even Chris Kaman made it onto the court. In the end, the Blazers walked away with an easy 99-85 win, just their second win of the season when being held to under 100 points.

What should have been a forgettable game ended up a blowout win against the team holding down the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff hunt. With the Sacramento Kings also losing, the Blazers are right back in the thick of it. Not much could have made the night better, save for Kaman giving Gordon Hayward a noogie and messing up his impeccable hair. I mean, for real, how can you play basketball that much and sweat and not have a single hair out of place?