Utah Jazz: Jazz cool Portland's blazing month
Assistant coach Dean Demopoulos blamed a lack of defense, while reigning Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy blamed a lack of rebounding.
Both credited the Jazz, however, for outplaying Portland and ending the Trail Blazers' 13-game winning streak on New Year's Eve at EnergySolutions Arena.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored a career-high 36 points, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Jazz from handing Portland its first loss since Dec. 2.
"The defense was probably as bad as we have played for a while," said Demopoulos."But Utah had a lot to do with that. They were very physical, very aggressive. . . . Today we got beat by a better team."
Roy, who finished with 17 points and five assists despite some foul trouble, pointed to the Jazz's 40-31 rebounding advantage as a key behind the streak-snapping loss.
"It's tough to see the streak end," Roy said. "But Utah played a really good game tonight. They were physical and they made shots when they needed to. Our Achilles' heel has been not being able to rebound, and they dominated us on the boards."
Portland took advantage of a home-oriented schedule to put together its winning streak. The Blazers played 10 of those 13 games at the Rose Garden. But they also played seven teams with winning records, so the competition was respectable.
Asked if he was worried about a possible letdown now that the streak has ended, Demopoulos said, "When you see a pattern as a coach and a teacher, that's what you want to see. This [one] game doesn't represent a pattern. The pattern has already been set by their work ethic and commitment to one another. So I don't anticipate any letdown. Not at all."
Guiding the Blazers because coach Nate McMillan was in North Carolina attending a family funeral, Demopoulos nearly rode an outstanding effort by Aldridge to victory.
Aldridge made 12 of 17 shots, got to the free-throw line 14 times and helped the Blazers get within four with 8 1/2 minutes to play.
"We went to [Aldridge]," Demopoulos said. "We went to him a lot, really. But he had his game going and I thought it was the right thing to do. . . . He's growing - just scratched the surface. He's got a long way to go. But he's a super young man and he's a good player today who is going to be a much better one tomorrow."