The first 3-pointer that stuck a dagger through the Utah Jazz felt good the moment it left his hands. So Damian Lillard decided to hoist another on the next possession.
It hit all net, much to the chagrin of 19,248 at EnergySolutions Arena. Why stop there? That was Lillard’s next thought. So he kept shooting. And he kept making threes. A trio of them, to be exact, a little less than three minutes apart.
It turned out to be Utah’s death knell on Friday night. In a 111-99 Portland win over the Jazz, Lillard took the game over in the fourth quarter. The former Weber State star was spectacular in the final 12 minutes, scoring 14 of his 16 points, providing answers that Utah simply couldn’t respond to.
“I felt pretty good on the first one, so I wanted to see if I could get myself into a rhythm,” Lillard said. “I started to get aggressive and look for my shot a little bit more, and it felt good out there.”
The Jazz had done a great job all night of clamping down on Lillard — who has developed into an All-Star and one of the best floor generals in the league in just his second season.
By the end of the third quarter, Lillard had just a pair of free throws and four assists to show for 26 minutes of work.
He was bottled up, as Utah doubled him off all pick-and-rolls. But he never forced things. He never deviated from the offense, instead throwing the ball to his open big men, who were conceded 15-foot jumpers all night.
“I just tried to make the right play and the available play,” Lillard said.
By the fourth quarter it was Lillard’s time. He and former Jazzman Wesley Matthews combined for 37 points, an always potent backcourt that turned explosive Friday night. Matthews picked up the scoring slack with a steady mixture of jumpers and drives to the basket.
With each hoop, the man who was discovered and then discarded by the Jazz franchise seemed to enjoy his success more and more.
“They made shots and plays down the stretch so you have to give them credit,” Utah coach Ty Corbin said. “They made I think 10 of 11 shots in that fourth quarter stretch. We closed out with out hands down. But for the most part, we had done a pretty good job up until that point.”
A closer look
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