Blazers come out flat, then fall to Jazz
PORTLAND — Finally having a healthy, near-full roster should be a long-term blessing for the Trail Blazers.
But in the short term, it is creating a bit of a mess.
Portland looked out of synch from the opening tipoff Wednesday against Utah Jazz. As a result, the Blazers were forced to rally from a major first-quarter deficit for the second consecutive game.
And for the second consecutive contest, Portland’s resilient fight was not enough.
The Blazers fell to the Utah Jazz 106-95 in a Northwest Division matchup at the Rose Garden before a sold-out crowd of 20,384.
With the defeat, Portland dropped into third place in the division, and sits five games behind first-place Denver.
“This is the real deal,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. “We played a very good team tonight. And we didn’t knock down shots.”
Portland connected on just 35.9 percent (33 of 92) of its field-goal attempts.
In sharp contrast, Utah hit 60.3 percent (38 of 63) of its baskets.
The Blazers trailed 21-2 and fell behind by 26 late in the second quarter. And Portland allowed Utah to shoot 72.7 percent (24 of 33) from the field during the first half.
Asked about the Blazers’ defense during the span, McMillan said it was almost nonexistent.
“Our starts the last two games have been bad,” McMillan said. “And to give up a 37-point (first) quarter, they basically just dominated that quarter.”
LaMarcus Aldridge scored a game-high 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Blazers (27-20), while Nicolas Batum and Jerryd Bayless added 16 points apiece.
Deron Williams topped the Jazz (27-18) with 24 points, seven assists and five rebounds, while Paul Millsap added 15 points and 12 rebounds.
“That was our best start of the season by far — especially on the road to come out like that,” Williams said. “We just had a lot of energy.”
The Blazers initially did not.
While Portland guard Rudy Fernandez acknowledged that heavy minutes and tight games may be catching up with the Blazers, McMillan said it was no excuse.
“We did some good things the last month,” he said. “But we’re coming up against some tough teams. And we’re not at full strength. But even at full strength, these will be tough games.”
Portland’s offensive struggles started at the top.
Blazer point guards Andre Miller and Steve Blake combined to shoot 2 of 17 from the field.
Miller is just 3-of-19 shooting and has been limited to 13 points during the last two games.
“They definitely came out and hit us hard,” Miller said.
Utah jumped out to a quick 12-0 lead as Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko easily picked apart the Blazers’ defense.
Soon, it was 21-2.
It took nine consecutive points by Batum for Portland to show signs of life.
“He was the one guy that had something going in that first half,” McMillan said.
But Batum’s one-man show was not enough.
And the Jazz held a 37-16 advantage heading into the second quarter.
Blazers guard Martell Webster donated $14,000 to Haiti earthquake relief efforts. Webster announced before the game he would contribute $1,000 for every point he scored against the Jazz. … The Blazers honored their teams from the 1980s as part of the organization’s effort to celebrate its 40-year anniversary. Bucky Buckwalter, Darnell Valentine and Jim Paxson were interviewed by Bill Schonely at center court during halftime. … Boozer left the court with 7 minutes, 40 seconds remaining in the third quarter. He did not return, and finished with 14 points in 21:59. … Bayless aggravated his sprained left ankle late in the fourth quarter.
Best Blazer: LaMarcus Aldridge scored a game-high 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Big numbers: Utah shot 72.7 percent (24 of 33) from the field in the first half.