Utah Jazz: Defense shackles Portland’s dynamic duo of Lillard and McCollum

First Published      Last Updated Jul 08 2017 06:41 pm

In focus » Utah keeps Lillard, McCollum contained in victory.

Before the Utah Jazz could swap sneakers for slippers and relax over the All-Star break, they had to deal with one of the NBA's most dangerous duos.

At their best, the Portland starting backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum can give defenders fits. So in beating the Trail Blazers 111-88 on Wednesday night — and slowing the potent duo — the Utah Jazz needed to get everyone involved.

"Those two guys can really go," Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said. "So that was a total team effort."

Yes, McCollum scored a team-high 18, but he went 8-of-19 from the floor to get there. Lillard never got comfortable on the court Wednesday, connecting on three of his 19 shots for 13 points.

"The process in shootaround was to get into them and push them over screens and be physical," Jazz point guard Dante Exum said. "I think we did that."

But while Utah's perimeter defenders provided the first line of defense, Jazz coach Snyder credited big men Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert for keeping the Blazers stars in check.

"The obvious is the guys that are on the ball," Snyder said. "But our bigs, both Derrick and Rudy, I thought did as good a job as they've done being in the right place and being active and being disciplined. I was really happy about those guys doing their job."

The Jazz have seen what it can be like when Lillard and McCollum get going. The duo combines to average better than 49 points per game. In the Jazz's season opener at Portland, Lillard went off for 39 points by himself. McCollum added 25 more.

This time around, the Jazz wanted their frontcourt to make life tougher.

"We wanted to make them make decisions and not just be able to come off screens and kind of have a free look at the court," Joe Ingles said. "Our bigs did great at being up a step or two higher. Make them make that first decision."

For Lillard, his 15.7 field goal percentage marked the second-worst shooting night of his season, ahead of only a 1-for-10 night against the Los Angeles Clippers.

"They are a really good defensive team," Lillard said. "They make you play in a crowd. They have good size, good length. I just couldn't ever get it going. I felt like even when I got looks that I know I should make, the ball was rolling around the rim and going in-and-out. I just could never get it going. Some of them, I felt I should have made and some you have to give credit to their defense, too."


Twitter: @aaronfalk