This one wasn't hard to predict. Vegas had the Jazz -7. They covered and then some, beating the Blazers Wednesday for the fifth consecutive time at Energy Solutions Arena, 118-105.
For a change, I'm happy the Blazers are on a back-to-back, because I don't want to remember this one. Ick.
As we noted one week ago, the Jazz not only have the Blazers' number but are playing their best basketball in years.
The stats from this game, the third meeting between the division rivals of the season, are a horror show. The Jazz shot 62.7%, the most efficient a Blazer opponent has been all year. (The Jazz are responsible for the second and third highest percentages as well, shooting 60.6% and 60.3% in the year's previous games.)
This one was even worse than the last, as the Jazz were without Carlos Boozer for the entire 48 minutes. Paul Milsap did a fine job in his place, finishing with 12, nine rebounds and five assists. But it was the rest of the Jazz front line that really killed the Blazers.
Mehmet Okur poured in a game-high 28 on 11 of 13 shooting, and Andrei Kirilenko looked more like the complete threat he was a few years back. Kirilenko added 22 points, six rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks. Deron Williams handed out a game-high 13 assists.
Indeed, Jerry Sloan has the Jazz humming like a sleek and powerful machine. Of their 42 made field goals, 32 of them were assisted (Portland had just 17 assists on 37 makes).
Collectively, the only area where Blazers topped the Jazz was on the offensive glass. Portland pulled down an impressive 16 offensive boards, a stat that comes with a caveat--it takes a lot of misses to get those opportunities.
As the Blazers entered the fourth quarter down 11, it seemed like time to throw in the towel--time to pull the starters and look tomorrow's matchup with San Antonio. I've said the Blazers always have a chance, but the stats tonight suggested otherwise: When carrying a lead into the final period, the Jazz are 16-0 at home, and 24-1 overall.
McMillan is never one to give up, even when the score is most daunting. (No NBA coach calls more meaningless, late-game timeouts.) McMillan finally pulled the regular rotation players with :47 seconds to play. Before the final buzzer sounded, Patty Mills scored his first NBA basket, a nine-foot jumper. (Too bad he'll probably to be back in the D-League this time next week.)
Several Blazers had fine nights, but shorthanded, the only way they have a chance to beat this Utah team would be for Andre Miller to drop another 50.
LaMarcus Aldridge had his best all-around performance in some time. He finished with 27 points, 12 boards and five assists. Aldridge set a new career high in free-throw attempts, getting to the stripe 15 times. He tied a career-high with 13 makes.
Martell Webster had a better night than he's had in the past few games since Nicolas Batum returned to the rotation. Webster finished with 20, hitting just three of his nine three point attempts. But because he was active and appeared to be regaining his confidence, McMillan gave Webster more minutes (36) than he's gotten in the last few games (around 20). Or maybe McMillan did indeed sense the Blazers would lose, but wanted Martell to feel like he was getting some worthwhile time.
Whatever the reason, with the coach choosing to ride Webster, Nic Batum saw only 14 minutes, but continued his hot shooting streak, hitting all three attempts. His field goal percentage for the season is a staggering 63.6%
But with all the hype surrounding Batum's stunning return to the floor, the solid play Jerryd Bayless has been somewhat overshadowed. After injuring his wrist (in game X-rays were negative) Bayless returned to score 14 points. It was his eighth-straight game in double figures. Now, certainly there are times when Jerryd takes ill-advised outside shots (Ben from Blazersedge and I were joking on media row Monday night that Bayless has become a bit of a black hole a la Travis from years past). But when he's taking the ball to the hoop, the second year guard is becoming pretty consistent.
Now, let's wrap this up with a little post-game locker room platitude: the Blazers need to have a short memory. They need to shake this off, look towards tomorrow, and bounce back against San Antonio.
Blah blah blah. Tepid, but it's true.