PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) — On a night in which they were without starting centre Jusuf Nurkic, everything else went right for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Damian Lillard had 36 points and 11 assists to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 132-105 win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night. Lillard’s backcourt mate CJ McCollum was excellent as well, scoring 30 points in the win.
Donovan Mitchell had 22 points to lead Utah.
McCollum, only one game removed from his first career triple-double, had plenty of magic left in his bag. The Blazers guard made all nine of his shots in the first quarter and had 20 by the end of the period.
Even when he wasn’t shooting, he was still scoring. An attempted lob pass from McCollum to Blazers centre Meyers Leonard went in the basket anyway.
“He’s a magician out there, so you never know,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said when asked if it looked like a pass from his angle.
In the eyes of Leonard, who finished with 16 points and six rebounds in place of the injured Nurkic, there was no doubt McCollum intended to pass. But it didn’t matter.
“It was absolutely a pass,” Leonard said. “But I guess the basketball gods knew he was playing so well that it had to go in.”
“That’s when you know you’re hot,” LIllard said.
McCollum didn’t miss a shot until he clanked a free-throw with 9:02 left in the second quarter and didn’t miss a field goal until later in the period. Portland put up 45 points in the first quarter and 74 in the half, which put the Jazz in a rough position.
“We just didn’t execute the way we want to defensively,” Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said of his team’s performance. “It’s the same team and the same schemes. I thought we should have added more pressure but obviously we didn’t come out with that pressure. That’s on us.”
Even when things went right for the Jazz, they went sour almost immediately. Perhaps nothing exemplified that like a steal and dunk by Donovan Mitchell in the second quarter that ended with the ball hitting a trailing Ricky Rubio in the face.
After the Jazz cut the Blazers lead that had once been at 27 down to 10 with 7:57 left in the third quarter, the Blazers put the game away scoring the next 17 points.