Career-high 59 by Damian Lillard dooms Jazz in a 101-86 blowout

Career-high 59 by Damian Lillard dooms Jazz in a 101-86 blowout

PORTLAND, Ore. — Before Saturday night’s game — an impromptu Damian Lillard Career Night — Jazz coach Quin Snyder admitted he didn’t like the fact that Utah was playing Portland for the second time in the same week.

“No. I don’t like playing Portland all the time,” Snyder said when asked during his pregame interview if this quick turnaround can help the Jazz prepare for the playoffs.

Snyder somewhat jokingly added, “We play them six times every year. When we do play them, we play them like three times in a week. It’s hard. It’s hard.”

It’s even harder when Lillard explodes like he did in this lopsided loss.

The former Weber State star scored 59 points on 18-of-34 shooting, including 9-for-14 from 3-point range.

That wasn’t just a career-high for Lillard. It was also a franchise-record performance by the point guard who was appreciative of “MVP” chants that broke out at the Moda Center.

The loss was costly. The Clippers beat the Spurs in San Antonio earlier in the evening, putting the Jazz and Los Angeles at 49-31 with two games remaining.

Utah, which ends the year against Golden State (road) and San Antonio (home), is now in the fifth seed as L.A. holds the tiebreaker. The Clippers are in the driver’s seat for home-court advantage in their upcoming first-round playoff series.

“We didn’t play well. It wasn’t our best game,” Snyder said. “We played well last night (in a 120-113 win over Minnesota). It was a back–to-back. A lot of guys are still banged up. We gave it an effort and Portland was better than us tonight.”

They were a lot better to begin the game.

Lillard went off for 26 points in the first quarter alone, and Portland went up 30-11 as Utah simply had no answer for him or its own offense.

“We need to do a better job on him obviously,” said Snyder, whose team was again without starting point guard George Hill. “But (Lillard) scored in so many different ways. Tip your hat to him. … He was terrific.”

Gordon Hayward scored 21 points, Rudy Gobert and Joe Johnson each added 13, and Rodney Hood chipped in 11 off the bench, but they were the only Jazz players in double figures.

Utah has Sunday off before facing Golden State on Monday night in Oakland.

Health continues to be a question for the Jazz, who saw Raul Neto sprain his left ankle and not return.

Snyder didn’t anticipate a record-breaking game from Lillard, but he did indicate that it wasn’t going to be easy before the tip — perhaps especially because Lillard only scored 16 points on 5-of-20 shooting in Tuesday’s 106-87 loss at Vivint Arena.

What makes playing the Blazers so hard?

“Them. They’re good,” Snyder responded when asked that question by a Portland reporter. “Lillard and (CJ) McCollum are terrific. (Portland coach Terry Stotts) does as good a job or the best job of any coach in the league of utilizing his personnel.”

Portland improved to 40-40, increasing its lead for the final Western Conference playoff spot to 1.5 games over Denver (38-41).

“I realized what time it was for our time,” said Lillard, who pointed to his wrist late in the game as the Blazers faithful gave him a raucous ovation. “We just need two more wins. … I just knew how important it was for us to get off to a good start, and we did that.”

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Utah made a push, pulling within five just after halftime, but Lillard went off again in the third quarter, hitting a three to put Portland back up by eight. After a scoreless second quarter, he went on to score 19 in the third quarter. It was the second time in the game that Lillard outscored the entire Jazz team in a quarter (26-18 in the first; 19-18 in the third).

GAME NOTES: Lillard became the first player in NBA history to record 59 points and nine 3-pointers. … An arena employee collapsed on the court in the third quarter, causing a delay in the game as Jazz trainer Brian Zettler and other medical personnel attended to her. She was put on oxygen and carted off to an ambulance. The P.A. announcer later told the crowd that she was responsive at the hospital.

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Published at Sun, 09 Apr 2017 05:20:00 +0000