Portland, Ore. • A few more variables were added to the Utah Jazz equation on Sunday night.
Subtract Ricky Rubio, who was out with hip soreness. Add Jae Crowder, who had just come to town via trade.
The Jazz have kept switching pieces in and out over the last nine games, but during that stretch, the result has always been the same.
Utah won again, this time 115-96 over the Portland Trail Blazers, who had won their previous nine games at the Moda Center. After a bogged-down, defensive struggle of a first half — which showed how much the Jazz missed Rubio — Utah took off out of intermission on a 24-5 rally from which Portland could not recover.
The nine-win streak is the franchise’s longest since 2010, and the longest active streak in the NBA.
“We just kept doing what we’ve been doing,” said Rudy Gobert, who finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The critical run was fueled much in part by Joe Ingles, who set a career high with 24 points. In the fourth quarter as Damian Lillard (39 points) tried to fight his way back in, rookie Donovan Mitchell slammed the door shut by making his final three shots (and free throws) to tie off a 27-point night. Gobert again anchored a defensive performance that saw the rest of Lillard’s team shoot 37.5 percent from the floor.
And Crowder’s debut? A success by all measure: The 27-year-old wing had 15 points and five rebounds while spacing the floor (three 3-pointers) and playing the defense he was known for during his seasons in Boston.
In Cleveland, he seemed a miscast spare part. In Utah, he looks ready to fit right in.
“He can pick the stuff up quickly — I think that’s the biggest thing,” Mitchell said. “There were some plays he didn’t know, but he ran out there, locked in and ran them the right way, which I’ve never seen before. I think that’s really what’s most impressive. Coach says one thing one time and he gets it.”
From Utah’s start, the team didn’t seem poised to roll to victory. Starting rookie Royce O’Neale in Rubio’s place, the Jazz (28-28) trailed by as much as 11 in the first half.
What kept the Jazz in the game was defense: Gobert’s long reach intimidated the Trail Blazers from taking shots around the rim, and O’Neale and Crowder helped replace Rubio’s tenacity on defense at the perimeter. While Lillard wouldn’t be contained, everyone else was. Utah also had a 58-37 edge on the glass, keyed by double-digit rebounding nights from Gobert, O’Neale and Derrick Favors.
When Ingles scored 10 points in the first four minutes of the third quarter, a one-point game at halftime turned into a Jazz-favored blowout. Even when Portland took two timeouts early on, the Blazers couldn’t find answers to slow down Ingles, who set a career high in points for the second straight game. His role as a facilitator (four assists) also helped compensate for Rubio’s absence.
“When Joe is aggressive, that confidence is something your team can feel,” coach Quin Snyder said.
The Jazz aren’t lacking for confidence lately. And their opponents can understand why.
“They got their rhythm going,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “For the last two or three weeks, they’ve shown how good they can be offensively. And they showed that tonight.”
Jazz roll in Portland
Utah’s Donovan Mitchell scores 27 points, and Joe Ingles adds 24.
Jae Crowder has 15 points, five rebounds in his Jazz debut.
Portland’s Damian Lillard scores a game-high 39 points.