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Trail Blazers Offense Struggles Late In Loss To Jazz

03/29/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    The Portland Trail Blazers (33-39) played a solid three and half quarter of basketball on Friday night only to let the Utah Jazz (37-36) get the spoils. Damian Lillard finished with 24 points and seven assists, but the Trail Blazers offensive struggles in the final moments were there demise as they continue to slip further behind in the standings.

    One game after the Trail Blazers turned in their most forgettable performance of the year against the Brooklyn Nets, the Trail Blazers appeared intent on not allowing themselves to have another slow start. They came out aggressive and they were the better team for three quarters, despite the fact they were without their All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge.

    "It was a better game that we played against Brooklyn," Stotts said. "I wanted to come out with more aggressiveness, better focus. We did that. We played a good game until the turnovers caught up with us in the fourth quarter."

    The Trail Blazers played excellent through three quarters. Damian Lillard was setting up teammates in the early going and the Trail Blazers were getting out into transition. They outscored the Jazz, not a fast breaking team by any means, 16-9 on fast break points. Nicolas Batum had an efficient outing, scoring 17 points on just six field goal attempts, hitting six threes, and getting to the line seven times. He also had four assists and two rebounds. JJ Hickson looked more like his energetic self as he had 17 points and 14 rebounds.

    "I think the whole game we were in flow, everything was flowing. We weren't going too many possessions without getting a quality shot," Lillard said.

    Meyers Leonard scored 12 points as he started in the place of Aldridge, but Victor Claver made a huge impact off the bench, helping the Trail Blazers greatly on both ends. Claver's activity on the wing is something the Trail Blazers lack and he not only provided good defense, but even a couple of highlight reel plays. He played only seven minutes against Brooklyn as the team trainers held him back on his first night, noting that there wasn't "a lot of strength," but Claver said he felt even better tonight, something his play evidenced.

    "I was happy to be able to play after the injury. Also, yesterday, it was a little difficult to train as well. I'm still not fully recuperated but I was able to play without pain and I'm happy in that sense," Claver said.

    However, Claver's solid outing as well as seven points and five assists from Eric Maynor off the bench couldn't offset what would later hurt Portland: late turnovers and the hot shooting of Mo Williams.

    Williams caught fire, as he has been known to do at times, in the second half. He scored 26 of his 28 points on the night in the final two quarters and towards the end of the game Williams seemed unstoppable. In addition to Williams getting hot in the second half, Al Jefferson (22 points, eight rebounds) and Paul Millsap (25 points, 10 rebounds) did what you expect them to in the interior. Derrick Favors also helped with a double-double off the bench.

    The Trail Blazers were still able to hold off the Jazz into the fourth because they had a double-digit halftime lead. However, in the game's final five minutes, the Trail Blazers had simply lost their way. Passes were being made late, thrown into traffic and the Jazz, behind the Lakers by only a half game entering the night, took advantage. The Trail Blazers had six fourth quarter turnovers which led to 11 Jazz points. Utah finished the game with a 23-3 run to end the game after a pair of Lillard free-throws gave Portland a 90-82 lead with 5:07 left.

    "Down the stretch they got their hands on some balls. Sometimes we didn't get shots up. They came down and they scored and they went on runs against us. The lead got chopped down real quick," Lillard said.

    With the loss, the Trail Blazers are once again 3.5 games out of the playoffs and are now three games back in the loss column. The Trail Blazers know that tonight hurt their chances even more, especially losing to an opponent fighting for the same spot. Luckily for them, there is another game tomorrow, although they will be without their All-Star again as Aldridge will not be making the trip with the team to Oakland.

    "Evey loss this season, it definitely hurts. We were at .500 for a minute, a couple games above. 500, but we never really got over the hump," said JJ Hickson.  "The good thing about this is you have a game tomorrow against Golden State. They're definitely playing for something. It's going to be a hostile environment but we've got to get this one, have a day off and then we play Utah away. So hopefully we can get those wins."

    The Trail Blazers face the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night at 7:30 PM in Oakland, the hometown of Damian Lillard. Tip-off will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.


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