The Portland Trail Blazers embarrassed the Utah Jazz for the second time in the past four days, this time in Utah’s house. I’m glad to have another win tacked onto Portland’s (now) 18-4 record, but this was an ugly game to watch. LaMarcus Aldridge was once again hot, Damian Lillard was once again not, and the team as a whole played uncharacteristically sloppy offense.
Fortunately, haphazard offense from the Trail Blazers is better than flawless offense from many other teams, and I liked what I saw on defense (for the most part). Portland was able to keep their lead late in the game because of their excellent transition D. The occasional turnover flies under the radar when everyone sprints to prevent opponent conversions.
I’m being a little extra critical of the Trail Blazers tonight, because a performance like that against any other Western Conference team would have been a much different game. Playing down to your opponent is a slippery slope that can have dire consequences for a team at the top. The Jazz were able to bring it within 5 points with just 1:28 remaining in the fourth quarter. The #1 and #15 teams in the West should never be separated by only 2 possessions that late.
That being said, there were plenty of good things happening for Portland:
LaMarcus Aldridge had no trouble scoring against the Utah defense. This can be partially attributed to the absence of power forward Derrick Favors, who sat out with a sore lower back. However; a bigger part of it is the astounding consistency Aldridge has displayed this season. That same consistency won him player of the week for his fifth time in his career just this afternoon.
Robin Lopez played exceptionally well, taking advantage of the inexperienced Enes Kanter. He shot 6-9 for 15 points, 2 points shy of his season high. As usual, he was a strong presence on the boards, reeling in a game-high 11, though the Trail Blazers won the rebounding battle by the slimmest of margins as a whole (44-43).
Nicolas Batum continued down the point-forward path, attempting just 5 field goals, but posting a game-high 11 assists. He’s not even shooting poorly (3-5), he’s just playing with different goals in mind. His 11 dimes were just two fewer than all of Utah’s combined (13) and nearly half of Portland’s total (23).
Thomas Robinson played the fewest minutes of any active Trail Blazer, but had by far the most efficient outing. He scored 8 points on 4-5 shooting with 6 rebounds and 2 blocks; all in under 14 minutes of court time. His energy off the bench gets so little recognition, but is so valuable to the Trail Blazers on both ends of the floor.
The Portland Trail Blazers face one of the three teams they have lost to this season, the Houston Rockets, on Thursday in the Moda Center at 7:00 p.m. PST. They must put a better product on the floor than they did tonight if they hope to see a better outcome than they did last time they played Houston. Alec Burks and Enes Kanter are no James Harden and Dwight Howard.
24 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast
20 pts, 3 reb