Damian Lillard refused to let the reeling Trail Blazers lose their sixth consecutive game Wednesday night. Portland was on the verge of exactly that, trailing by 10 points in the fourth quarter, when the third-year point guard from nearby Weber State decided to attack the basket again and again and again.
Lillard finished with 23 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds and the Blazers beat the Utah Jazz 92-89.
"I don’t think it’s a big win like we just beat Golden State or something like that, but it’s a big win because of the five-game losing streak," Lillard said. "It came down to the last few minutes of the game and we haven’t been great in that timeframe, closing games the last month or so.
"But with the losing streak, on the road, against a team that’s been playing well, it’s a big win in that way."
After a two-point first half, Lillard scored eight points in the third quarter and 13 points in the fourth. LaMarcus Aldridge added 19 points and nine rebounds.
"He’s a dynamic player," Jazz guard Trey Burke said about Lillard. "He wasn’t the only guy we were worried about and he took advantage of that."
Portland ate away at the 10-point deficit with Lillard attacking the basket, including a transition layup and a free throw for an 87-86 lead with 91 seconds left in the game. Lillard said their pick-and-roll game with a small lineup spaced the floor and opened the paint for his drives.
The Jazz closed the third quarter with a 15-2 run to take a double-digit lead.
"We needed a win and there was satisfaction we found a way to win even after we didn’t shoot the ball well for most of the game," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "For us, it was a gritty win and we did it a little unconventionally and I think it’s satisfying."
Derrick Favors and Burke carried the load for the Jazz with Gordon Hayward (shoulder) and Rodney Hood (stomach) out. Favors finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds, and Burke added 22 points on 9-of-19 shooting. Rudy Gobert had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
"We need to be smarter," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "Thought we had some breakdowns, obviously, in the fourth quarter defensively. I felt like we really competed in a situation where it would have been easy not to. To feel sorry for ourselves or whatever."
The Jazz led 39-37 at halftime thanks to Favors and a poor shooting effort from the Blazers. Portland was 3 for 12 from behind the arc in the first half, and Aldridge and Lillard combined for six points on 2-for-13 shooting.
Trail Blazers: Portland had 12 points in the first quarter, its lowest total in any quarter this season. The 37 points in the first half were the second-fewest they’ve scored in a half this season. … Aldridge returned after missing Tuesday night’s game with a left hand injury. … Nicolas Batum missed his second consecutive game with a lower back injury. … Chris Kaman missed his third straight game with a right shoulder strain.
Jazz: Gobert did not record a block for the second time in 12 games. … Burke said he suffered a pinched nerve in his neck in the fourth quarter when he turned his neck too fast. It went numb and he dropped to the floor, but stayed in the game after a time out.
The Jazz started Burke and Elijah Millsap with Hayward and Hood out. It’s just the second time this season Snyder has stated those two alongside Favors, Gobert and Exum. Hayward was out for the second consecutive game and Hood left the game for good in the third quarter of Monday’s loss to Minnesota.
"It certainly changes our team," Snyder said. "Keeping the ball out of the paint was one of the things the other night that I think hurt us. We just missed that 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9, that length, and those guys playing the passing lands.
"And the most obvious thing is, it’s harder for us to score. … The ability for us to score throughout the course of the game and then execute at the end are two challenges for us right now."