“[If] we take care of business and we win games, we’ll give ourselves a chance,” said Devin Harris of the Jazz’s playoff hopes. “Tonight we wanted to come out with some enthusiasm …. We didn’t want to have another letdown like we did in New Orleans.”
With injuries to nearly every one of their key players, the Blazers have quite literally limped into the final weeks of the season. Playing primarily against the Blazers’ reserve players, the Jazz picked up right where they left off against Dallas. The team shot lights out in the opening quarter on their way to an early 11-point lead. Utah extended their lead to 18 points at halftime and held the depleted Blazers lineup to just 39 first-half points.
Devin Harris had an extremely efficient first half, scoring six 3-pointers on his way to 25 points. Harris and backcourt mate, Gordon Hayward, combined to score 38 points in the half, falling one point shy of matching Portland’s total first-half scoring output.
Although the duo’s production slowed in the second half, their contribution to tonight’s win cannot be understated. Harris and Hayward finished the night with a combined 50 points on 16-of-26 shooting and set an early tempo and standard that carried the Jazz to victory.
“I don’t want to talk too much about it,” said Harris of his 11 made 3-pointers in the last two games. “The stroke feels good. I’m getting some open looks and I’ve got to give my teammates a lot of credit. I get a lot of shots off of [Hayward’s] penetration and [opponents] have been double-teaming Al [Jefferson] a lot. The most important thing is that shots are open and I’ve been able to knock them down.”
The Jazz never trailed in tonight’s matchup and thoroughly dominated the Blazers from the opening tip despite an uncharacteristically substandard night from the Jazz’s starting frontcourt. Paul Millsap finished with just six points on 2-of-8 shooting as Jefferson contributed just 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting. It didn’t matter in the end, however, because tonight was all about Utah’s backcourt.
When Harris and Hayward weren’t on the floor, reserve shooting guard, Alec Burks, was torching the Blazers for 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting to go with five rebounds and five assists.
“I taught [Harris] everything he knows,” joked Jefferson after the game. “[The backcourt] played well. The bigs … struggled tonight a little bit …. It was a game that we needed and we played like we wanted it …. It was a good team win.”
Derrick Favors and teammate DeMarre Carroll left the game midway through the fourth quarter after a head-to-head collision. Carroll suffered a mild concussion last week in Memphis and looked to be in extreme pain as he left for the locker room. Carroll was cleared shortly after the game as team doctors confirmed that he did not suffer a repeat head injury.
Former Jazz-man, Wesley Matthews, finished with a team-high 21 points, including three 3-pointers.
The Jazz will play their final three games at home starting Saturday night versus the Orlando Magic.