Trail Blazers wary of Jazz team that beat Warriors
Utah (15-17) knocked off Golden State 108-103 Wednesday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena, an impressive win given that the Jazz had lost four of their previous five outings and prevailed despite guards Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio combining to make 5 of 34 shots from the field.
“You know they’re a good team, but the West is tough this year, so a lot of teams’ record doesn’t reflect what they’re capable of,” Portland point guard Damian Lillard said. “That’s the biggest example. (The Jazz) go up against Golden State, the powerhouse of the league at full strength, and win, while (the Jazz) have been in a tough stretch. That just tells you right there how good they are.”
The Jazz beat the defending NBA champions with timely 3-point shooting and strong defense, the latter category led by center Rudy Gobert, who contributed 17 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots.
“Guys did a remarkable job being physical, respecting the game plan,” Gobert said. “We know (the Warriors are) the best shooting team in the league, and we did a good job controlling them.”
The Jazz’s next mission is to do what they can to control Lillard, who has been a one-man wrecking crew against Utah through his seven years in the NBA. In the teams’ four meetings last season, Lillard averaged 33.0 points. In 23 career games against Utah, the first-team All-NBA selection from 2017-18 has averaged 26.7 points, 5.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds while shooting 46.4 percent from the field and 39.9 percent from 3-point range.
“We have to find a way to contain him,” Utah forward Derrick Favors said. “He’s going to make shots; he’s going to make plays. We just have to try to contest every shot, try to make it as tough as possible for him.
“It’s not just against us — he’s been having success against a lot of teams. He’s a good player; I give him that respect.”
In a 99-92 home win by Portland (18-13) over Memphis Wednesday night, Lillard exploded for 15 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter, hitting 5 of 8 shots from the field, including 4 of 5 from beyond the 3-point line.
It’s been Lillard’s mode of operation often through this season. He leads the NBA in second-half scoring (15.6 points) and has made 46 of 96 3-point shots (47.9 percent) in the third quarter, the 46 makes the most in the league.
“In the first half, I’m just letting the game happen,” Lillard said. “If I’m coming out and getting open looks, I’ll be more aggressive in the first half. But most of the time, I’m setting guys up, managing the game and seeing what’s going on, taking what comes to me.
“In that third quarter, that’s usually when you can tell what direction the game is going. The game is decided in the second half. Usually I get more aggressive and impose my will more than in the first half.”