Road Takes: Lillard’s 4th Quarter Pushes Blazers Past Utah, Closer To Houston
It wasn’t the prettiest game but alas, the Portland Trail Blazers used a fourth quarter push from Damian Lillard to beat the Utah Jazz 111-99 in Salt Lake City.
With the win, the Blazers have swept the Jazz for the first time in franchise history.
But, more important to their current day status, they moved one game closer to the Houston Rockets and one step closer to clinching the fifth seed.
The Jazz–who didn’t want to let the Blazers get the sweep–changed their starting line-up for the first time all year. They did what their fans had been clamoring for all year: playing their young guys heavy minutes.
The Jazz started Enes Kanter alongside Derrick Favors and put Alec Burks into the starting line-up instead of Richard Jefferson for the first time this season. Trey Burke and Gordon Hayward started as usual but Burks and Kanter starting together was something of a surprise.
The Young Jazz men had energy and they were also red hot to start the game, making three of their first four three-point attempts. The Blazers didn’t play particularly bad defense but the Jazz were playing, well, jazzed.
The Blazers trailed by 8 after the first quarter and needed a very strong end to the first half to take a two-point lead into the intermission.
Wesley Matthews made some big shots, which continued to be a theme, and Will Barton helped bring energy off the bench.
Robin Lopez had an uncharacteristically tough night from the field as he missed a lot of easy shots around the basket that he normally makes. He went 5/13 from the field and Damian Lillard didn’t have a field goal in the first three quarters.
In the second half the Jazz didn’t let the Blazers get comfortable and stayed right with them even as the Blazers got their lead up to 6. The Jazz closed the third quarter well, tying the game.
But, in the third quarter, Damian Lillard took over from the three-point line just a stone’s throw away from where he went to school in Ogden, Utah.
Lillard scored 14 of his 16 points in the final period and sent every Blazer fans favorite buddy cops into a frenzy, which you can see above.
Lillard’s push didn’t mean that the game was devoid of a little drama in the final few moments but a Matthews three-pointer out of a time out with 2:14 left to push the lead back up to 12.
1:10 later, the Blazers took out their starters and wrapped up the win.
- Nicolas Batum had a very solid line for those who have him in fantasy with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists.
- LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
- Barton’s energy was pretty helpful for the Blazers at times when it seemed like they were sleepwalking.
- The Warriors look pretty in control at halftime against the Lakers, up by 15. One more Blazer win or one more Warriors loss the rest of the season would cement the Blazers to fall no lower than fifth place. Even if the Blazers lose on Sunday to the Warriors, they can take fifth by beating the Clippers next Wednesday. I would assume the Clippers will rest their starters since they likely won’t be able to pass 2nd place Oklahoma City. One more win in the final three games for OKC would have them clinch the number two seed.
- As far as passing the Rockets and having home court in the first round, it’s possible but still very unlikely thanks to Corey Brewer’s 51 points and Gorgui Dieng’s game-winner (both of these things aren’t typos and really did happen). The Rockets would have to lose two of their final three games which include two games against the lowly Pelicans and one against the Spurs, who have clinched home court advantage throughout the playoffs and should be resting all of their key players. But, they are still a machine and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis may be able to win them one of those two meetings. Unlikely, but there is a chance.