Wednesday, Dec. 23 game: Jazz 120, Blazers 100
The skinny: It was a forgettable season-opening game for the Trail Blazers, as Utah broke open a close game in the first half and cruised to a 120-100 win Wednesday at the Moda Center.
The Jazz led by 21 points, 65-44, at halftime and the lead turned 31 in the third quarter.
The Blazers had trouble stopping Utah and problems scoring — not a good recipe for a win.
"It felt like we were one step behind the whole night," Carmelo Anthony said.
Of note, Damian Lillard went scoreless in the first half.
The Jazz led by 31 points, 83-52, on two Donovan Mitchell free throws midway through the third quarter.
CJ McCollum led Portland with 23 points. Anthony overcame a slow start to net 15 points. Jusuf Nurkic added 13 points. Enes Kanter hit all seven shots and had 14 points and eight rebounds.
Lillard went 4 of 12 from the field (1 of 7 3-pointers) and scored nine points. He went 0 of 5 in the first half. He had seven assists. He wasn't alone with offensive struggles: Robert Covington had one point in his Portland debut and Rodney Hood no points.
"I just didn't make shots. They did give me a lot of (defensive) attention," Lillard said. "They were blitzing and trapping, I wasn't expecting that. I didn't play a good offensive game.
"I should have been more aggressive, when I realized they started to trap me."
Mitchell and Rudy Gobert had 20 points each for Utah, and seven players scored in double figures. Gobert had 17 rebounds.
Mike Conley added 18 points and Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic 15 each.
Utah shot better than Portland, made 19 3-pointers and led in rebounds, 59-40.
"They played extremely well, moved the ball well, got into the teeth of defense,," Anthony said. "They want to shoot 3s and play fast."
The Blazers lost their three final preseason games, giving up 125 points a game. So, struggles continued in the first game that counted in the standings, which also happened to be the first home game without fans at Moda Center (because of COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions).
Quotable: "I thought we had good juice tonight," said coach Terry Stotts, commenting on the energy of his team.
Quotable 2: "This was one out of 72 (games), it's not like we're getting ready for the (NBA) bubble with eight games. We have some work to do," Anthony said. "This is the first game of a long, long season."
Note: Lillard said integrating new players and establishing a new defensive scheme — combined with a short training camp — is partly why the Blazers have struggled.
"We're figuring each other out, chemistry-wise. We have some challenges in front of us, and it's showing on the floor."
Next up: The Blazers are scheduled to play Houston at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Moda Center. But, the Rockets' game against Oklahoma City on Wednesday had to be postponed because the Rockets didn't have the required minimum of eight players available because of COVID-19 protocol.
Stotts said the Blazers need to worry about themselves, first and foremost.
"We have to get better," he said. "It's about us right now."
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