The good news for the Utah Jazz is they get another shot at Portland on Thursday.
The bad news is the Trail Blazers still have LaMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge, 6 feet 11, who creates a big matchup problem for the Jazz, scored 26 points on Monday as Portland halted a four-game road losing streak with a 96-91 victory.
”He was on,” Portland teammate Wesley Matthews said. ”He’s a very talented player. He brought us home tonight.”
Aldridge scored 10 points in the fourth quarter on 4-of-6 shooting and had four rebounds and a blocked shot down the stretch for the Blazers.
Deron Williams had 31 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers that pulled the Jazz within 94-91 with 7.7 seconds left. But Andre Miller (17 points, six assists) made a pair of free throws to seal the win for Portland (16-15).
”Tonight, I thought we showed some poise in the fourth quarter,” Aldridge said. ”We played more confident down the stretch.”
Portland held Utah to just 33.3 percent shooting in the fourth quarter. Take away Williams’ 4-of-7 effort and the Jazz made just 3 of 14 shots after entering the final quarter tied at 66.
The loss was the sixth at home for the Jazz, who lost only nine on their home court last season.
”Sometimes breaks are good; sometimes they are bad,” Williams said of the Jazz’s not playing since ending a four-game road trip Wednesday. ”Tonight it was bad. We came out sluggish, couldn’t find the energy. But you have to give them credit. They took us out of our stuff. They defended us well.”
The Trail Blazers went on a 14-0 run in the third quarter to take a 60-53 lead.
”They took the life out of us and busted us in the mouth,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. ”We fell out like flies. When you play games at home like this in your building, you’ve got to be a little tougher than what we were.”
The win avenged a 103-94 loss in Portland on Nov. 20, and served as a nice homecoming for former Jazz guard Matthews, who received a rousing ovation when he was introduced before the game.
”It felt great,” said Matthews, who left Utah to sign a five-year, $34 million deal with Portland after last season. ”I wasn’t expecting that at all. I really appreciate the support. Jazz fans have always been great to me.”
By halftime, Matthews had as many points (four) as turnovers.
Then he started Portland’s third-quarter spurt with a 3-pointer. Nicolas Batum would add another, and Aldridge and Miller each hit a pair of shots while Utah went scoreless for nearly five minutes.
Matthews finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
”We were confident in the first half when we were losing,” Matthews said of falling behind 31-22 after a putback by C.J. Miles with 9:28 left in the second quarter. ”We still felt like we were controlling the game. We were just waiting for our break.”
The Blazers created their own break by controlling the boards (41-31), forcing Utah into 17 turnovers and winning the battle in the paint, 40-32
”(Defense) was a point of emphasis,” said Matthews, who forced two charging calls. ”They’re a great in-the-paint, inside-out team, a great pick-and-roll team, with a great point guard and lot of scores on the inside. We really wanted to minimize their shots in the paint and really contest everything.”
As a team, the Blazers had eight blocked shots.
Marcus Camby had three blocks to go along with 12 rebounds before leaving in the third quarter with a sprained ankle.
Williams said a lack of ball movement was key.
”We had 17 assists,” he said. ”I have stressed all year that if we don’t make our passes, then we’re not as good of a team.”
The Jazz led 27-20 at the end of the first quarter thanks to 61 percent shooting. Williams and C.J. Miles both hit 3-pointers and reserve center Mehmet Okur hit a pair of jump shots in his first action on the home court since last season’s playoffs.
”I felt a lot better than the first couple of games,” said Okur, who returned to action Dec. 17 — eight months after rupturing an Achilles’ tendon — only to miss the last two games because of an ankle injury. ”I make a couple of baskets, but second half my legs kind of got tired and I missed couple of easy baskets.”
Okur played 17 minutes and finished with six points, five rebounds and four turnovers, while Utah’s other big men, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, had 11 points apiece.
”I thought (Millsap and he) both played great D (on Aldridge),” Jefferson said. ”He just got on a roll. We got them again Thursday, so we just got to be ready to play, have more energy than we did tonight.”
NOTES: Miller is a former University of Utah star who led the Utes to the 1998 NCAA championship game. … Camby is listed as day-to-day. … The Jazz are now 17-5 under Sloan in their first game back after Christmas. … Rudy Fernandez had 11 points in Portland’s 17-9 second-quarter run on 4-of-4 shooting. … Williams started the game 5 of 5, including 3 of 3 on 3-pointers.