Blazers destroy the Utah Jazz, 124-107

by Kevin Nesgoda

The Blazers return home after a quick stop in Los Angeles to take on LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Lakers on a night that they honored the life of Kobe Bryant. Tonight Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz are in town. The Jazz are the second best team in the Norwest behind the Denver Nuggets and are losers of three in a row.

Carmelo Anthony is back in the lineup tonight after sitting out last night due to personal reasons. Kobe was one of his best friends so it is understandable. He should have fresh legs tonight as well. Mike Conley is also back for the Jazz tonight. He has been a huge disappointment for the Jazz so far this year, so this might be a good thing for the Blazers tonight.

The Jazz won the only previous matchup back in December.

Bojan Bogdanovic starts off the game with a three and Conley looks like he did in Memphis and gets right by CJ McCollum for an easy layup. Donovan Mitchell is on fire early to start. His first three shots have not hit rim, they have barely hit net. They might want to put Trevor Ariza on him tonight.

Damian Lillard and Hassan Whiteside are in sync with the high screen and rolls tonight. They have hit two lobs early in the game. Rudy Gobert is closing out on Dame because the man is on fire and there is no one to deal with Hassan Whiteside in the paint. Hassan has been playing some great ball lately, both offensively and defensively.

He’s my defensive player of the year at this point in time.

This game is moving fast. Defense is apparently going to be optional tonight. Utah is out running and getting easy shots and shooting 87.5% in the first six minutes of the game. The Jazz are an incredibly tough team to defend. They have shooters, they have a mid-range game, and they have a bunch of dudes who can finish in the paint.

Mike Conley is on his game tonight. This might be the player that Utah thought they were getting in the trade.

On the other end, Carmelo Anthony is being really aggressive tonight. He’s attacking whoever the Jazz throw at him. He’s put them into the spin cycle. Sadly, he’s been fouled a few times and calls have not been made. Conley hits another three and the Jazz are up 32-21 with a tad over three minutes left in the first quarter.

Good thing I have an open bottle of Santa Barbara Pinot Noir tonight.

Before I could swirl and take a drink the Blazers go on an 8-0 run, Gary Trent Jr.’s hot shooting continues, Lillard does a nifty behind the back reverse that left Ed Davis reeling, and then Dame throws a lob up to Nassir Little who grabbed the ball from the top of the backboard and dunked it. I knew Little had hops, but damn, that’s a lot of springs. He does it a few moments later.

Hey! Rodney Hood is in the house for the first time since his injury. It’s good to see him up and about.

The Blazers wrap up the first with a 12-0 run and trail only by one, 34-33. Lillard has 10 points and right now there is no better player in the league. He’s doing everything right now.

Jordan Clarkson hits a three to open up the second period of play. The other night he had what felt like 30 points in the fourth quarter against the Nuggets. Clarkson has the ability to fill up the cup in a hurry. Anfernee Simons responds with a nice mid-range jumper. I’d love to see him attack this more. Carmelo gets a big board and a dunk to tie the game up at 39.

It’s nice to see Caleb Swanigan back in Portland. he’s not the best player in the world, but his hustle is something that is going to be rewarded in Portland. He’s lost some weight and is more agile and has a quicker first step.

Whiteside has three blocks in the game so far. I told you he’s the defensive player of the year. His third block came against Gobert which lead to a Trevor Ariza layup to give the Blazers a three-point lead. CJ had a strip of Bojan the play before which also led to an Ariza layup. A few years ago those would be dunks, but Ariza is like 40.

Both Anfernee Simons and Trent have beautiful strokes and I’d like to see them take an old school approach and really work the mid-range game. They both have wide open 15-17 footers tonight that were pure. I think they could find some money there. Before Ray Allen became a deadly three-point shooter he was a deadly mid-range guy. Damian was too.

Conley and Bojan are on fire tonight. Especially Conley. I think he’s found himself. The Jazz have been winning a lot without him in the 20 games he’s missed. If this is a sign of things to come then Donovan Mitchell has the second scorer he’s needed his first two years in the league. Plus Clarkson off the bench is deadly. I really like this Jazz team and they are going to be scary come playoff time.

Even scarier in the playoffs is Logo Lillard. He has back to back threes, 18 points, and the entire state of Oregon loving him. Hell, I’m in SoCal and I love him. I think the man is revered worldwide at this point.

The Blazers end the second quarter with another 12-0 run and have a ten point lead, 63-53 at the half. Lillard has 23 points and Whiteside has 8 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks. CJ and Melo both have nine points, and the Blazers bench has been a bit exciting tonight. They are not filling up the stat sheet, but they are making some exciting plays.

Speaking of the bench, Nassir Little is for sure the plan at small forward going forward. I was going to say that Rodney Hood would probably stick around one more year before Little was anointed in this third season, but I’m thinking he might get the start next season.

Lillard and Whiteside are really developing a nice chemistry with that screen and roll. It has been there almost all night against the defensive player of the year and it’s going to be there all year against any team. Dame is such a threat to score from anywhere on the floor that the natural thing to do is double-team him, but then it leaves Whiteside open for an easy dunk.

The Blazers outside that screen and roll have been stagnant to start the third. Bojan and Conley have been hot though and the Jazz cut the lead down to three. Damian Lillard has answers though and has 36 points and is just on another level from the rest of the league.

Carmelo Anthony wants to get his tonight too. I really like how he’s accepted his role as a third man with this team. He couldn’t do it in Houston or Oklahoma City, but there’s something special starting to happen with this Blazer chemistry.

Whiteside is outhustling Gobert tonight and just flat out beating everyone to rebounds tonight. Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little, and Damian Lillard hit back to back threes to push the Blazers lead to 91-73. I came into this game thinking it was a scheduled loss. All-day long this is a scheduled loss. But it’s that time of the year the Blazers start playing like the best team in all of the NBA. Not sure what it is about this team, but it’s like a yearly tradition. January rolls around the Blazers are struggling and then in four months they are a top-three seed and winning playoff series.

The Jazz cut the Blazers lead down to 11 to end the third quarter. The third quarter ended very sloppily and I had to pour myself another glass of wine to watch it.

Even though Damian has been the closer lately, I’d really like to see CJ McCollum have a big fourth quarter and close out the Jazz. I think everyone needs that type of game right now from him. He’s had a good, yet quiet season. He needs a big moment this year. Get him warmed up for the spring.

Once again the Blazers offense stalls a little bit when Lillard is not on the floor. As I mentioned above this where we need CJ to install a little killer instinct and let Lillard have a bit more rest. The Blazers are going to need those legs come March and April. Plus, Simons working the mid-range game would also allow the Blazers to rest Lillard a little bit more.

I love the energy that Melo is showing tonight. He’s dropping shoulders, driving to the basket, and getting to the line. Melo has also passed Kevin Garnett for 17th all-time on the NBA scoring list. The Blazers have pushed their lead back up to 18 again.

Lillard hits his ninth three of the game, bringing his total to 47 for the night and the Blazers are up 18. Lillard is the next level right now. There’s no stopping him.

Damian Lillard had 51 points and 12 assists, Hassan Whiteside had 17-21, Carmelo Anthony had 15, CJ had 14, Little and Simons each had 7 off the bench.

Blazers head to Denver on Tuesday night to take on the Nuggets.

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