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Utah Jazz: Jazz blow out Blazers with strong second half

SALT LAKE CITY — Anyone who might've worried or wondered just how the Utah Jazz would do following the annual All-Star break and the NBA's trade deadline, well, worry and wonder no more.

Sure, it's a mighty small sample size — one game — but if Friday night's contest was any indication of how the new-look Jazz will fare for the final 29 games of this season, Utah's fans can relax and breathe easy.

They're gonna be just fine.

Utah used a 24-11 run to begin the second half, then rattled off 15 unanswered points to start the fourth quarter on its way to an impressive 92-76 victory over the Northwest Division-leading Portland Trail Blazers in front of a full, appreciative house at EnergySolutions Arena.

"I think we played pure," first-year Utah head coach Quin Snyder said proudly. "We made some mistakes, but for the most part they played for one another.

"And when you are unselfish like that and don't care what happens … we are trying to make each other better, and I think you get rewarded for that. … We kind of played with a purity, which is nice to see."

Gordon Hayward scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the second half, and Trey Burke's 19-point output paced a superb performance by the Jazz bench, who outscored their Portland counterparts by a whopping 41-14 margin in the victory — which came a day after Utah traded away center Enes Kanter and forward Steve Novak to Oklahoma City.

"They played good," Utah forward Derrick Favors said of the Jazz reserves. "You have to give credit to Book (Trevor Booker). You have to give credit to Eli (Elijah Millsap), all of those guys. They came out and played good, made shots, played with a lot of energy, and they helped us out tonight."

Favors certainly helped out, too, adding 16 points and grabbing a game-high nine rebounds, while Millsap made three 3-pointers and had nine boards to help fuel Utah's second-half explosion, and Booker had nine rebounds of his own.

Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood both returned from the injured list to combine for 14 points, and Rudy Gobert blocked five shots as the Jazz (20-34) snapped a string of five straight losses to the Trail Blazers (36-18).

"Me and (Gobert) we both good shot-blockers and gone one-on-one defenders," Favors said. "It makes it a lot harder for teams to come into the paint against us. That way the guards can pressure the ball and know that me and Rudy got their back."

Former Weber State star Damian Lillard led Portland with 19 points, while fellow All-Star LaMarcus Aldredge added 14 and former Jazzman Wesley Matthews contributed 13 more.

But the Trail Blazers, who came into Friday's contest averaging almost 103 points per game for the season, were held 26-plus points under their average, shot just 36.1 percent from the field and were outscored 53-33 after halftime.

"We didn't shoot the ball well and that gave them energy," Lillard said. "They took advantage of us turning the ball over and it didn't help that we didn't shoot well in the half court, either.

"But I think they outplayed us. They came out, they played hard. They made some shots at the end of the game to kind of separate them. It all happened before that. They were playing hard, they were flying around. … They jumped on us, they just won the game. They outplayed us."

Snyder felt like the key to Friday's victory was his team's defense, particularly that of Hayward and Burke.

"I thought we hung in there early and it gave us a little confidence defensively," Snyder said. "Everybody who came in the game took a lot of pride in their defense, and that's one of the best defensive games that Trey has played all year. I was really happy to see him compete, pressure the ball, and when he does that he's really good.

"Gordon off the ball and Trey on the ball — when they do that, we're a better defensive team."

Lillard scored 10 points to help pace Portland to a 43-39 lead at halftime, when the Jazz shot just 36.4 percent (16 of 44) from both the field and from the foul line (4-of-11) in the first half.

But coming out of intermission, Hayward scored 10 points and Burke added five more in a 24-11 Utah run that turned their four-point halftime deficit into a 63-54 lead.

"We all played extremely hard tonight and it was good defensively on all of us," Hayward said. "It's amazing the scrambling we did on defense. It seemed like everybody was connected. We just played really hard and really well.

"I think you could make the case that this is our best defensive effort, all around, everybody, one through five, whoever was out there on the court. I think it really translated to the offensive end and gave us a spark. Maybe you get some buckets in transition and all of a sudden, you're knocking down threes and you have this energy about you."

The Jazz maintained a 65-59 lead at the end of the third period, then threatened to blow the Blazers out of the building with a 15-0 run to start the fourth quarter — six different Utah players scored during its decisive run — to open up an 80-59 lead.

Utah led by anywhere from 22 to 16 points the rest of the way.

"It was a lot of fun," Burke said. "We needed a good performance coming off the break. … We had a great defensive effort, and that's what allowed us to get the win.

"Collectively as a team, we all communicated and we had each other's backs out there. Like I said, it started on the defensive end and that's what allowed us to get out in transition and get easy buckets and play at the level we played tonight."