The red hot Utah Jazz came to town riding an eight game winning streak and proceeded to whoop the Blazers with relative ease, extending their NBA-high streak to nine. The Blazers held a small lead going into the second half, but things fell apart for them in the third quarter. Jusuf Nurkic left the game after a weak 14 minutes of play citing a sore back and Utah rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell went to town with a number of impressive plays on both the offensive and defensive end. The final score was 115-96.
Before this game Portland held 5th place in the West while Utah sat way down in 10th, but a few weeks ago Utah's crazy-tall french center Rudy Gobert came back from injury and changed the face of this team. With "The Stifle Tower" back in place the Jazz will most likely be threatening Portland for playoff position.
The first half of this game was close and relatively exciting. Damian Lilliard looked strong coming off his incredible 50 points in the 3 quarters performance in Sacramento and the Blazers went into the break with a one point lead. But fans could feel that the momentum had already begun to swing Utah's way. Here's a sampling of some of the fans in the hallways during halftime:
This dude had a sweet Blazers warm up shirt:
These two looked stylish:
I stopped these guys in Jazz gear for a picture and this Blazer fan jumped in, saying he wanted to meet some folks from Utah. It turned out the Jazz fans lived here in Portland but for some reason decided to support a team from Utah and wear cowboy hats. They said they root for the Blazers against anyone else:
These gals showed Rip City spirt:
These guys were walking around with their signs held high. I asked them if anyone had agreed to be their valentine and the kid on the right said young lady up on 300 level and said she'd would. But he was still looking!
The third quarter saw the Blazers go ice cold. Some of it was poor shooting, but a lot of it was the presence of Rody Gobert and his incredibly long arms. Many of the Blazer's shots appeared to bounce just shy of the hoop. Even if Gobert wasn't actually blocking shots his presence down low was intimating and causing chaos. They don't call him "The French Rejection" for nothing! Here's a picture of Gobert stalking Portland's Damian Lillard. Gobert's wingspan is a NBA-longest 7'9".
Portland made efforts at getting back into the game but nearly every time they gained a few points Donovan Mitchell took them right back. It was easy to see why he is now favored to win rookie of the year. He moves like silk and can leap out of the arena. He's not a big guy, but it feels like he's all over the court. A little bit like young Dame Lillard during his big rookie year. Afterwards Lillard congratulated the talented rookie:
It was an impressive win for Utah, especially without their skilled point guard Ricky Rubio, who is having a career year. Portland will need to watch out for Utah. The Blazers were no match for them on this night and they meet two more times this season in games that will likely have playoff implecations.
Fans would do best to brush this loss off and focus instead on the huge home game coming up on Wednesday, Valentines Day, when the Blazers take on the world champion Golden State Warriors. A win agains them might just redeem all past sins this season.