PORTLAND, Ore. — Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder certainly isn’t doing any cartwheels or backflips, even though his team just keeps winning and winning and winning.
The Jazz had just won their ninth straight game Sunday night with a convincing 115-96 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, but Snyder didn’t look or act any different than if his team had just lost its ninth straight.
“This is the NBA regular season,” the low-key Snyder said. “I’m not counting when we have a losing streak, I’m not counting when we have a winning streak. As far as tallying things, no one is taking chalk and putting anything on the board or carving something on a tree.”
Still, the Jazz are back to .500 for the first time since early December at 28-28 with their longest winning streak in eight years and are breathing down the necks of several Western Conference teams in their quest for the playoffs. Isn’t that something to be excited about?
“It’s nice that there’s a (winning) streak, because that means we won,” offered Snyder, whose team will try to keep the streak going Monday night at home against San Antonio.
In their latest win, the Jazz got 27 points from rookie Donovan Mitchell, 21 in the second half, and another career high from Joe Ingles, who scored 24 points after getting 23 two nights earlier against Charlotte. Ingles made 6 of 9 from 3-point range, including back-to-back threes early in the third quarter to get the Jazz rally going.
The Jazz also got 15 points from newcomer Jae Crowder in his Utah debut, 15 points and 11 rebounds from Derrick Favors and 12 points and 11 rebounds from Rudy Gobert.
If ever there was a night for Utah’s streak to end, it appeared it might be Sunday at the Moda Center, where the Jazz were playing a team ahead of them in the standings that had won nine straight home games and was coming off an 18-point road victory two nights earlier in Sacramento.
The Jazz, on the other hand, were playing without point guard Ricky Rubio, who has been on fire for the past three weeks, for only the second time all season and were integrating Crowder into the lineup after he was acquired in a trade with Cleveland on Thursday.
The first half went as expected as the Jazz looked a bit out of sorts as they trailed throughout the first 24 minutes and went into halftime down 44-43.
Then something happened in the third quarter as the Jazz suddenly caught fire and buried the Blazers with a 38-point quarter and took an 81-63 lead into the final quarter.
Snyder felt his team had defended well the first two quarters in holding Portland to just 37.8 percent shooting. The defense continued in the third quarter and the Jazz added some offense with their 38 points that included 4 of 8 from long range and 10 of 10 from the free throw line.
“They’re capable of scoring points in bunches, and we felt like at the beginning of that quarter we needed to be really sound defensively and got some stops and got some things on the offensive end.”
With Rubio out, the Jazz started rookie Royce O’Neale in his place, and though he only scored four points, O'Neale grabbed 11 rebounds and played an overall strong floor game and finished with a plus-28, highest on the floor in the plus-minus category.
“You wouldn’t look at his line and say ‘great game,’ but defensively he was solid and we executed a game plan,” Snyder said. “He rebounded again, which was a big thing tonight to keep them off the offensive glass. I was happy with how he played and how our team played obviously.”
Former Weber State star Damian Lillard, who was coming off a 50-point performance two nights earlier against Sacramento, was his usual self, leading the Blazers with 39 points, but he didn’t have enough help as CJ McCollum added 22, but missed 14 of his 22 shots.
“I think Utah played a really good game,” said Portland coach Terry Stotts. “They got it going in the third quarter with threes. They got their rhythm going, For the last three or four weeks they’ve shown how good they can be offensively, and they showed that tonight.”
Stotts said his team’s offense struggled most of the night, but gave credit to Utah’s defense.
“We could have executed better, passed the ball better, taken better care of the ball, but Utah beat us. Simple as that.”