Utah Jazz: Burks shines, but Jazz fall to Blazers
By Aaron Falk
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Dec 09 2013 06:22PM
In their first meeting of the season, the Trail Blazers rained down 3-pointers — a franchise 17 of them — in a dismantling of the Utah Jazz. On Monday night in the rematch, Portland picked its spots more judiciously, waiting until the end to let loose the haymakers that left the Jazz out cold.
With a sparse crowd at EnergySolutions Arena cheering on a comeback effort that had slashed a 15-point Blazers lead to 5 in the game’s waning moments, Portland’s Nicolas Batum fired a 30-footer that swished as the shot clock expired.
Less than a minute later, Blazers point guard Damian Lillard hit one of his own.
"Killers," Jazz forward Richard Jefferson called the shots after Utah had fallen 105-94.
It was the team’s fourth straight loss and 19th overall.
"Coach is doing a good job of putting us in position we’re just making a lot of young mistakes," said the veteran Jefferson, who finished with 13 points in 33 minutes. "We’re making a lot of inexperienced mistakes. But coach keeps pushing, guys keep pushing and we’re getting better."
For the bottom-dwelling Jazz, Alec Burks has been bright spot for the past few weeks. Early in the season, the third-year guard out of Colorado has looked at times out of control and out of position. But Burks, who scored a team-high 20 points Monday, has emerged as one of the team’s most consistent scoring threats in recent games.
After admitting he’d started to settle for too many jump shots, Burks has found success by doing what he says got him into the NBA in the first place: "Just being aggressive, trying to get to the rim like I usually do."
Monday was the third time Burks has reached the 20-point mark this season and the seventh game in a row in which he has hit double-digit scoring numbers.
Jazz coach Ty Corbin said Burks has settled in since being moved to his natural two-guard spot after handling some of the team’s point guard duties with rookie Trey Burke out earlier this year.
"We’ve been able to take him back off the ball and put him back in the roll that we thought he’d be in since training camp," Corbin said. "He’s done a good job of attacking in the secondary part of the offense. … He’s relishing in the roll now."
The veteran Jefferson said he’s seen Burks put in extra time in the gym, working with assistant coach Johnnie Bryant.
"I’m proud of Alec," Jefferson said. "He’s really stepped up. There’s always a transition phase for a new guy coming into a new role. … He’s only 22 years old and I know he’s been in the league a few years, but it’s something that he has to continue to work hard at and he’ll become more consistent. His confidence is at an all-time high and he needs to keep playing that way for us."
On Monday, the Jazz battled with Portland - a team that blew them out just a few nights earlier. Center Enes Kanter, whose struggles earned him an early seat on the bench Friday finished with 19 points for the Jazz. And Utah’s defense, even without forwards Derrick Favors and Marvin Williams, limited Portland’s Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge’s for stretches - just not enough.
The duo still combined for 42 points in the win.
Portland took advantage of a weak third-quarter by the Jazz to go on runs of 8-2 and 8-0, pushing the lead as high as 15 in the process.
The Jazz hung around as Jefferson and Gordon Hayward scored 23 of their 30 combined points in the second half. It was enough to limit Burks to under four minutes of action in the final quarter.
"Batum was out there, so we had to put Gordon over on him," Corbin said. "We were a little smaller and I thought Richard was going pretty good, made some plays for us, so we let it ride. I was thinking about bringing [Burks] back but Richard was playing pretty well."