Damian Lillard gives Joe Johnson game ball after historic game

Damian Lillard gives Joe Johnson game ball after historic game

OAKLAND, Calif. — Although Saturday was a rough night for the Utah Jazz — and in more ways than one — something pretty neat occurred in the aftermath of their blowout loss at Portland.

Not surprisingly considering what else took place at the Moda Center, it was Damian Lillard who made it happen.

In the first half of the Jazz’s 101-86 setback, Joe Johnson hit a 3-pointer in front of the Blazers’ bench for a noteworthy bucket in an otherwise nondescript night for the visitors.

For the record, Johnson’s basket was not the only one that Lillard didn’t make. It just seemed that way.

More significantly, the 3-pointer gave Johnson his 20,002nd point of his career. The forward, who’s spent time with Boston, Phoenix, Atlanta, Brooklyn and Miami, became only the 42nd player in NBA history to reach the 20,000-point mark.

Everything else about the night belonged to Lillard.

There was one exception.

Moments after scoring a career-best and Portland-record 59 points, Lillard decided that the game ball belonged to Johnson. The team manager had rounded it up so Lillard could keep it, but the former Weber State star was well aware of what Johnson had just achieved.

“So,” Lillard said, “I told them to give it to him. That’s an accomplishment for him as well.’’

Aside from Johnson’s milestone and Lillard’s generous and classy move, this was an overall bad night for the Jazz.

It started when the Los Angeles Clippers won at San Antonio, giving them as many wins as Utah.

It ended when the Jazz lost their 31st game of the season, putting them in a tie with L.A. Because the Clippers own the tiebreaker thanks to taking the season-series 3-1, that puts Utah in the fifth seed and gives Chris Paul’s club home-court advantage for now.

The only way that will change is if the Clippers lose one or both of their remaining games against Houston and Sacramento at home and if Utah ends up with a better record after playing at Golden State on Monday and at home vs. San Antonio on Wednesday.

That wasn’t the only unfortunate development for the Jazz.

Raul Neto sprained his left ankle and Gordon Hayward was diagnosed with a left quadriceps contusion.

Those are both concerning for a team that’s already without starting point guard George Hill and is still hoping Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood regain their health and stamina in time for the playoffs.

Favors, Hood and Neto have been ruled out for Monday’s game against the Warriors, while Hayward and Hill are listed as questionable.

“I don’t know if we’re going to go into the playoffs with three or four guys out. That doesn’t do us any good where we’re seeded,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.

“We’ve got to step back and see who’s healthy, had some guys who got knocked out (Saturday) and see some of the guys that have been playing in Derrick and Rodney and if they’re able to play on Monday. There’s a chance they won’t be available and hopefully they can be available Wednesday.”

Not having Hill was particularly costly Saturday while Lillard went off.

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“Yeah,” Jazz center Rudy Gobert said. “I mean, it’s pretty obvious. We need (Hill) 100 percent.”

Jazz fans shouldn’t be surprised if players like Alec Burks, Trey Lyles and Joel Bolomboy see extra time in the next couple of games, especially in light of the difficult time Utah will have trying to regain home-court advantage.

“We are still thinking one game at a time,” Gobert said. “Whoever is healthy, we go out there and try to get a win.”

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Published at Mon, 10 Apr 2017 01:35:00 +0000