Three nights after burying Utah, the Portland Trail Blazers got what they expected Monday at EnergySolutions Arena.
Portland defeated the Jazz, 105-94, and improved its record to 18-4. But it was a much different game than Friday night’s 130-98 victory at the Moda Center.
In the rematch, the Trail Blazers didn’t gain a clear advantage until the third quarter. Utah fought back, however, and trailed by only five with 2:42 remaining before Portland pulled away again.
In the first game of the season between the two Northwest Division rivals, the Trail Blazers led by as many as 42 points.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be the same,” said Wesley Matthews, who finished with 16 points. “It was more of a slugfest. We knew they were going to play better at home. Their record doesn’t speak to it, but they have talent. They play hard [and] the crowd gets into it. Add the altitude into it and they have a nice little home court advantage.”
Coach Terry Stotts agreed.
“It was the kind of game I expected,” he said. “We knew Utah would come out and give us a good test because they play well at home and the way the first game went against them.”
Portland struggled to a 51-45 halftime lead. It was still 64-57 before Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez and Matthews scored during an 8-0 run that gave the Blazers a 15-point lead.
Portland made 11 of 18 shots in the third quarter, when Aldridge scored eight points and Matthews added seven.
“In the first half, we didn’t shoot the ball well,” Stotts said. “We didn’t finish [and] our offense was struggling a little bit. But we stayed in the game with our defense.
“I was confident that, at some point, the offense would kick in and we’d start making shots. I thought that happened in the third quarter.”
Damian Lillard, who played his college basketball at nearby Weber State, started slowly but finished with 18 points and three assists.
“They played hard,” said Lillard. “... They are tougher on their home floor. With us not having the greatest offensive night, we just wanted to stay the course and get the job done. We were able to do that.”