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Aldridge, Trail Blazers beat Jazz for second time this season

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The Canadian Press
12/9/2013 11:42:19 PM
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SALT LAKE CITY -- Blowing out Utah for a second time this month was not in the cards for Portland. With the Jazz making a fourth-quarter rally, the Blazers struggled to fight through offensive sluggishness and escape with a win.

Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard provided the lifeline in the final minute.

Batum drained a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock and Lillard followed with another shot from long-range on the next possession to lift the Blazers to a 105-94 victory over the Jazz on Monday night.

"The ball bounced their way a few times," Lillard said. "We knew it would be tough because we just played them two or three days ago. They're a better a team on their home floor. With us not having the greatest offensive night, we just wanted to stay the course and get the job done -- which we were able to do."

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 24 points and Damian Lillard added 18 to propel Portland to a bounce back win after a loss to Dallas on Saturday snapped a four-game winning streak. Robin Lopez chipped in 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Wesley Matthews added 16 points for the Blazers, who notched their second win over Utah in December.

Reserve Alec Burks had 20 points for the Jazz, who dropped their fourth game in a row. Enes Kanter added 19 points and Gordon Hayward chipped in 17 for Utah, which trailed the entire second half after nine ties and nine lead changes in the first half.

"I thought we were doing a better job out there," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "I thought execution on the offensive end is getting a lot better. We're sharing the ball."

Portland played clean basketball to build a second-half cushion and hold off a late Jazz rally. The Blazers had 23 assists and shot 47.1 per cent (40 of 85) from the floor, while committing just 11 turnovers.

Portland broke open a close game by making six straight baskets to start the third quarter. Aldridge drained a jumper to start the run and Matthews capped the spurt with a 3-pointer, giving Portland a 64-51 lead at the 8:29 mark.

Kanter made a pair of baskets to shave the lead to 64-57. It only set the stage for another Blazers run. This time, Portland rattled off four unanswered baskets -- capped by Lopez's layup -- to extend its lead to 72-57 with 4:13 remaining in the third quarter.

The Blazers shot a blistering 61.1 per cent (11 of 18) from the field in the third quarter. And they did it by finding holes in the Jazz defence and attacking them with precision.

"With our offence, I want us to be opportunistic with whatever the game gives us," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "If it gives us 3s, we knock them down. If it gives us the paint, that's good too with LaMarcus on the block. One thing we've done well with offensively is we take what the game gives us."

Utah made another run at the Blazers midway through the fourth quarter. Back-to-back jumpers from Hayward cut Portland's lead to single digits. Then, Trey Burke made a pair of free throws to bring the Jazz within 89-82 with 5:45 remaining.

Utah cut the lead to seven several more times and pulled within 97-92 on a pair of free throws from Hayward with 1:28 left. But then Batum and Lillard drained their consecutive 3-pointers to put the game out of reach during the final minute.

"You play good D for like 22 or 23 seconds and they hit the crazy shots," Kanter said. "It's tough you know -- that's basketball. You can't think about it. We just need to learn how to close games."

Burke and Kanter put on a two-man show for the Jazz in the first quarter. The duo combined for 13 of Utah's first 15 points to help the Jazz keep pace with the Blazers.

Portland created a small cushion late in the first half. Trailing by one after a layup by Kanter, the Blazers scored six straight points and took a 40-35 lead on a pair of free throws from Aldridge. They extended the lead to 49-41 after Lopez dunked and Aldridge scored an uncontested layup on back-to-back possessions.

"We played sluggish tonight," Aldridge said. "We didn't have that killer (instinct) in us tonight. Guys were just tired tonight. Every game can't be great. I thought tonight was a good win for us because we came here and didn't make shots, but guys still put it up."

NOTES: Portland notched its first win in its last six trips to Utah. The Trail Blazers are off to their best start since 1990-91, when they won 27 of 30 games to open the season. Utah announced that former coach Jerry Sloan will be honoured with a banner raising ceremony on Jan. 31. Sloan coached the team from 1988 to 2011, recording 1,127 victories during his tenure. . Lopez had his ninth double-double of the season. ... Batum matched a season-high with 11 assists. . Burks is averaging 16.6 points per game in his last seven games for the Jazz.

LaMarcus Aldridge (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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