EditorsNote: 2nd update: tweaks to 10th and 12th grafs
Damian Lillard scored 30 points, CJ McCollum added 26 and the Portland Trail Blazers led the entire second half en route to a 105-98 win over the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night.
Carmelo Anthony also played a key role in the victory with 18 points off the bench to help Portland (41-29) earn its fifth straight win and its ninth victory in 10 games.
Jordan Clarkson had another nice entry for his Sixth Man of the Year bid with 29 points to lead the Jazz, who struggled to a higher degree than usual in the absence of injured All-Star guards Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley.
The Jazz (50-20) saw their lead over the second-place Phoenix Suns (48-21) slip to 1 1/2 games in the race for the No. 1 position throughout the playoffs. Utah finishes the regular season on the road this weekend against the Oklahoma City Thunder (Friday) and the Sacramento Kings (Sunday).
Rudy Gobert had a solid showing for the Jazz with 15 points and 20 rebounds, but Utah shot just 41.2 percent overall and 12 of 40 (30 percent) from 3-point range. Utah lost its second game in a row after a five-game winning streak.
Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic didn’t shoot well — 3-for-14 — but he had an all-around strong game with 11 points, 15 rebounds, six assists and four blocked shots.
The Trail Blazers also have just two games remaining as they attempt to clinch either the fifth or sixth spot in the West to avoid the play-in tournament. Portland is one game ahead of the seventh-place Lakers (40-30) after Los Angeles beat the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, and the Trail Blazers hold the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage.
Utah had a 32-24 lead early in the second quarter before things took a turn for the worse.
Portland steadily chipped away and managed to take a 59-56 halftime lead thanks to a last-second McCollum jumper.
The Blazers continued to add to the lead thanks to some nifty outside shooting by Robert Covington, Lillard and McCollum. A Nurkic free throw midway through the third quarter gave Portland its first double-digit lead at 73-63.
Portland kept the pressure up in the fourth quarter, eventually going ahead 97-81 thanks to a 7-0 run that included a McCollum layup, an Anthony 3-pointer and a Lillard bucket.
The final score was a bit misleading as the Blazers were ahead by double figures until the final 16 seconds and in complete control the entire fourth quarter.
–Field Level Media