SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Jazz lost an offensive presence when they traded Enes Kanter minutes before the deadline, but improved defensively by promoting 7-foot-1 shot-blocker Rudy Gobert to the starting lineup.
The shift was on display Friday night.
The team defense was the star for the Jazz as they beat the Trail Blazers 92-76. The victory ended a five-game losing streak to Portland as the Blazers scored just 33 second-half points.
“We hung in there early and it gave us a little confidence defensively,” Jazz coach Quinn Snyder said. “We just kept trying to talk about competing on the defensive end.”
Trey Burke scored 19 points off the bench and showed off a Tony Parker-esque midrange game that included floaters in the paint, leaning runners, bank shots and pull-up jumpers. Snyder said Burke played one of his best defensive games of the season by badgering the Blazers ball-handlers.
“We needed this type of game coming off the break,” Burke said. “Portland is a team capable of getting hot and capable of beating pretty much anybody in the league.
“(Offensively), I’m just getting better every day. Watching film, seeing how the defense is playing me. … It’s all about being a point guard out there and making the right read.”
The Jazz (20-34) used a 39-10 run over the third and fourth quarters to take an 80-59 lead and pull away from the Blazers (36-18).
Forward Gordon Hayward finished with 20 and Derrick Favors chipped in 16 and nine rebounds as the Jazz upset the first-place team in the Northwest Division.
The Blazers led by eight in the first quarter, but were shut down in the second half. They entered the game averaging 102.6 points per game, but were held to 36.1 percent shooting from the field. Their 76 points were a season low.
“You have to give Utah credit with their defense, they were very energetic,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “They were scrambling, they were closing out hard on our shooters. Part of it was us, we didn’t make some shots, I think we could’ve executed better, a little bit better. Passed the ball better. … We were a little hesitant on some of our decisions.”
The Trail Blazers sprinted out of the gate to take a 24-16 lead, thanks to eight first-quarter points from LaMarcus Aldridge and an active Chris Kaman off the bench. The Jazz answered with an 11-2 run that lasted into the second quarter to take a 27-26 lead, including three buckets from Burke.
Damian Lillard scored 19 points for the Blazers while Aldridge added 14 points and eight rebounds. Former Jazz guard Wesley Matthews scored 13 and had seven boards.
“We didn’t take great care of the ball,” Lillard said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well and that gave them energy. They took advantage of us turning the ball over and it didn’t help that we didn’t shoot well in the half court either.”
Trail Blazers: Portland acquired Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee from the Denver Nuggets on Thursday. Neither was available for the game. … The Blazers are 7-2 against Northwest Division opponents. … Portland is 28-6 when holding teams to under 100 points. … Aldridge was held scoreless in the second quarter and the first six-plus minutes of the third before getting back on the board with a jumper from the top of the key. He scored just six points after the first quarter.
Jazz: Joe Ingles returned to the starting lineup after missing the last three games before the All-Star game with back spasms. He finished with eight points. … First-round pick Rodney Hood played in his first game since Jan. 18 due to inflammation in his left foot. He scored six points in 10 minutes, including two 3-point baskets.
Gobert finished with four points, seven rebounds and five blocks in 23:47 minutes in his first game as the Jazz’s new starting center. The Frenchman officially became the man in the middle when Kanter was traded Thursday. He entered the game ranked No. 4 in the league with 2.17 per game.
Trail Blazers: Host Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.
Jazz: Host San Antonio Spurs on Monday.
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