PORTLAND — Maybe it’s because his team has been there so many times this season that Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder wasn’t about to do cartwheels after his team’s surprising 30-point victory over Portland Friday night.
The Jazz absolutely crushed the Blazers at the Moda Center with a 120-90 victory that improved Utah’s record to 16-17, while dropping Portland to 18-14.
More than once in this rollercoaster season, the Jazz have won by large margins only to turn around and lose by a big similar margin in subsequent games. So with a game against Oklahoma City coming up Saturday night at Vivint Arena, Snyder was being restrained in his comments.
“It’s one NBA game out of 82,” Snyder said afterward, hardly cracking a smile. “We got a few shots to fall tonight and defensively we were pretty consistent with their effort and that will at least give you a chance. We’re looking for consistency in our execution and we’ve got another one tomorrow night and then Portland again. It doesn’t get easier but we’ve got to be consistent with our execution on the defensive end.”
The key word there was “consistent,” something the Jazz haven’t been but have been striving for all season. They’ve knocked off two of the West’s best teams in consecutive games and will try to make it three Saturday night against the Thunder.
One thing the Jazz proved Friday night was that they can win, and win big without leading scorer Donovan Mitchell contributing on the offensive end. For the second straight game, Mitchell had another dreadful shooting night, following up his 5-for-26 night with three points on 1-of-10 shooting.
Snyder brushed it off afterwards, saying “Donovan did his thing on the defensive end and that’s what we ask of him.”
But the Jazz were just fine with good Ricky Rubio showing up after his awful 0-for-8 night against Golden State in leading the Jazz with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including 4 of 4 from 3-point range.
He was aided by 57 bench points, led by Kyle Korver, who scored 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting with three 3-pointers and Jae Crowder, who made 6 of 9 shots for 16 points.
“That group played very well in the second quarter and then I thought we came out in the third quarter and Ricky was aggressive and these guys kept it going and played well,” said Snyder.
The Jazz defense was solid in holding Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum well below their season averages. Lillard finished with 19 points and McCollum scored 12 as they combined for just 12 of 31 from the field.
“Obviously it was a tough game,” said Portland coach Terry Stotts. “We didn’t play very well. I thought Utah played with a lot of conviction, a lot of aggressiveness. Obviously their bench hurt us in the second quarter and then their starters hurt us in the third quarter. We kind of got beat top to bottom.”
Utah took a 55-49 halftime lead as the bench outscored the starters 30 to 25 with Crowder scoring 13 and Korver 10.
The Jazz came out smokin’ in the third quarter and threatened to put the game away early with a 24-9 run over the first eight minutes. Rubio scored 14 of those points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
But after a timeout when they were down 21, the Blazers came out inspired for the rest of the quarter, cutting the margin to 13 before settling for an 83-68 deficit. Utah pushed the lead back to 19 at 90-71, but again after a timeout, the Blazers ran off seven straight capped by a 30-footer by Lillard.
However, after their own timeout, the Jazz answered with nine straight points of their own as Korver hit a 3-pointer, then hit a tough jumper in the lane and got fouled and Rubio followed with a 3-pointer from the corner.
After Korver hit a jumper while falling out of bounds and Thabo Sefolosha sank a jumper it was 105-80 with 5:47 left and the fans started streaming for the exits.