Blazers star Damian Lillard has been a Jazz-killer. Can anything be done to slow him down?

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, left, shoots over Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, center and center Rudy Gobert, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Before Wednesday’s victory over Golden State, the Jazz stressed the importance of limiting the open looks for the Warriors’ elite-level shooters.

Ahead of Friday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, the song remains the same.

While Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum perhaps don’t have the same cachet as Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson, they’re hardly less dangerous.

Lillard, specifically, has proven particularly problematic for the Jazz.

In the teams’ four meetings last season, the Weber State product averaged 33.0 points, 5.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 46.3 percent from the field. And while his 3-point shooting was down slightly against Utah (34.3 percent), he made up for it by making frequent — and efficient — trips to the foul line, averaging 8.0 attempts per game, and converting every single one.



Nov. 1, 2017/33/12-27/4-15/5-5/10/8/Jazz, 112-103 (OT)

Feb. 11, 2018/39/12-25/2-8/13-13/3/1/Jazz, 115-96

Feb. 23, 2018/24/7-18/2-7/8-8/4/3/Blazers, 100-81

April 11, 2018/36/13-25/4-10/6-6/1/10/Blazers, 102-93

Averages/33.0/11.0-23.8 (46.3%)/3.0-8.8 (34.3%)/8.0-8.0 (100%)/4.5/5.5

In 23 career games vs. the Jazz, he’s averaged 26.7 ppg, 5.8 apg, and 4.4 rpg, while shooting 46.4 percent from the field and 39.9 percent from deep.

Jazz big man Derrick Favors said he and his teammates will have their hands full yet again trying to slow the point guard.

“He’s a good player — we just got to find a way to contain him,” Favors said. “He’s gonna make shots, he’s gonna make plays — we just gotta find a way to make it tough for him; try to contest every shot, try to make it as tough as possible for him. We’ll see what happens.”

What happened between the teams last year was a 2-2 split of the season series, with the Jazz claiming the first two, and the Blazers prevailing in the last pair.

Lillard, meanwhile, was a nightmare all year long.

In those matchups, he never scored fewer than 24 points, and topped 30 points in the other three contests. In the first meeting, he had a near-triple-double, with 33 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. In their final game, he had an impressive double-double, with 36 points and 10 assists.

Favors was asked what the key was in trying to limit Lillard — Stop penetration? Curb the number of shots he gets? — and scoffed at the very idea.

“It’s the NBA — you can’t stop nobody from getting in the lane. You can’t really stop anybody from getting a shot off.” he said. “All you can hope to do is get a good contest, whether it’s on a layup or on a jumper … and just hope he misses.”

Of course, Lillard is missing less this season than ever. His present 45.0 field-goal percentage would, if it lasts, be a career-high. The same holds true for his effective field-goal percentage of 53.0. His 27.2 points per game are also on track to be a career-best.

So, given that Friday marks the first meeting of the 2018-19 season between the Jazz and Blazers, it’s clear that Lillard’s success against Utah, while spectacular, isn’t necessarily all that unique.

“It’s not just against us — he’s a good player overall. He’s been having success against a lot of teams,” Favors said. “He’s a good player, I give him that respect.”

Up until the game starts, anyway.

After that, the Jazz’s newly reinvigorated defense — which has held four straight opponents to less than 100 points per 100 possessions — will be all about finally trying to shut him down.


At Moda Center, Portland, Ore.

Tipoff • 8 p.m. MT

TV • AT&T SportsNet

Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM

Records • Jazz 15-17; Trail Blazers 18-13

Last meeting • Trail Blazers, 102-93 (April 11)

About the Jazz • Utah broke a two-game losing skid with Wednesday’s 108-103 win against the Warriors. … The Jazz lead the all-time series with Portland 100-85, but are just 29-64 in their road matchups. … This will be the team’s NBA-leading 21st road game this season, though a four-game homestand at Vivint Smart Home Arena will follow.

About the Trail Blazers • Weber State product Damian Lillard, an All-NBA First Team honoree last season, is averaging 27.2 ppg, 6.0 apg, and 5.0 rpg this season while shooting 45.0 percent from the field and 39.8 percent from deep. … The Blazers are coming off a 99-92 win over Memphis on Wednesday, their third victory in a row. Portland is 12-4 so far this season at Moda Center.