Utah, without two of its starters, was on fire to start Wednesday's game against the Trail Blazers. After the Jazz hit their first seven shots, they took a 31-24 lead at the end of the first quarter.
After a slow start for the Blazers, they went on the attack in the second quarter.
And they never let up, even when their offense left them early in the final period.
Portland went on to defeat Utah, 105-98, to earn a fifth-straight victory. The Blazers are holding down the No. 5 spot in the West, while controlling their own destiny in the playoff race.
Against a shorthanded backcourt, the Blazers took advantage. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum not only provided their typical scoring, but the duo also stepped it up at the other end. As a team, Portland tightened up on its defense after allowing the Jazz to get off to a quick start. Portland was led by their defensive anchor Jusuf Nurkic, while Norman Powell's length also disrupted the Jazz on the perimeter.
It was McCollum who led the way early to help Portland take a 59-56-halftime lead. McCollum had a game-high 17 points at the break.
Utah was without two of its stars in Mike Conley (right hamstring; tightness) and Donovan Mitchell (right ankle; sprain).
The Blazers held the Jazz to just 28.2 percent from three (12-of-40.)
CJ McCollum got it going in the second quarter. While he showed off his midrange and hot hand, the Blazers clamped down on defense from behind the arc. Utah shot just 28.6 percent from three through the first two quarters.
After missing two-consecutive games with a right ankle sprain, Carmelo Anthony returned to give the Blazers a boost from three. Melo and McCollum led the charge in Portland getting back into the game in the second quarter.
The Blazers hit six of their seven threes after starting the game 0-for-4.
McCollum finished with 26 points, while Melo added 18.
But it was Damian Lillard in the second half, who helped his team secure their ninth win in their last 10 contests. Lillard notched 30 points in 37 minutes of work.
At the other end, Jusuf Nurkic altered shots at the rim throughout the game despite Utah’s early success in the paint. Nurkic also dominated on the boards. The Blazers starting center pulled down 10 rebounds in his first half in 16 minutes of action. Portland’s focus on defending the three-point line, especially in transition, helped the Blazers take the lead at the break and keep it.
Utah led by as many as 12 in the first quarter in big part to their inside presence with 18 of the Jazz's 31 points in the first quarter coming in the paint.
Portland tightened up the defense in the second quarter, not allowing Utah a straight line to the rim.
The shorthanded Jazz got plenty of contributions from their role players led by Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles. Clarkson showed off his patience on offense. He led Utah at halftime off the bench with 16 points.
Enes Kanter notched his first made three-pointer of the season to get the Blazers going from deep.
In the first half, the Blazers and Jazz took care of the ball. Utah committed just two turnovers in the first two quarters, while Portland had committed three.
Next up: The Trail Blazers will face the Phoenix Suns in the second night of a back-to-back on Thursday. The Blazers and Suns are set to tip-off at 7:00p.m. PT on NBCSNW, the official network of the Portland Trail Blazers.