Jefferson leads Jazz past Blazers 86-77
SALT LAKE CITY -- Al Jefferson had 21 points, including two one-handed shots in the lane to clinch the victory, and the Utah Jazz beat the Portland Trail Blazers 86-77 on Friday night.
Paul Millsap added 15 points for the Jazz, who have won eight of their last nine home games.
After trailing most of the game, LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds, made a putback to cap nine consecutive points by the Blazers and draw Portland within six at 78-72 with 5:28 remaining.
Alec Burks finally snapped the string of seven straight missed shots by Utah with a tip-in, but Damian Lilliard hit a 3-pointer make it 80-75 with 3:57 to play.
But that's all the Blazers could muster down the stretch. Though the Jazz struggled to score, the Blazers came up empty on six straight possessions with two turnovers and four missed shots. Lilliard, who played collegiately at Weber State in nearby Ogden, finished with 26 points.
The Blazers held the Jazz without a point for a span of 5:32 in the middle of the fourth quarter, but the Jazz made the shots down the stretch.
Utah finally clinched it on two free throws by Randy Foye and Jefferson's back-to-back push shots in the lane. Jefferson, who also grabbed 10 rebounds, finally found the net as the Jazz suffered through a 5-of-19 performance in the fourth quarter and still came away with the win.
Wes Matthews rolled his right ankle on a drive to the hoop in the third quarter and had to be helped off the court. He did not return. Locker room X-rays were negative, but it was not immediately known if he will miss any games.
The Blazers were on an upswing after a season-worst six-game losing streak. But they didn't have the offense this time to duplicate the 21-point comeback they had in a 106-104 victory over Dallas on Tuesday.
Utah's only blemish in the last nine games at home was a record-setting 125-80 loss to Houston. Like the Jazz, the Blazers are a different team away from home. Portland has averaged 102.3 points in three straight home wins, but has scored 90.7 points per game in dropping five of seven on the road.
The Jazz and Blazers play all four of their season matchups in a two-month span, which may be good news for Utah's playoff hopes. Utah swept Portland last season and the same two teams face off Saturday night in Portland.
The Blazers are banged up and it's getting more dismal. Nicolas Batum scored just five points and often rubbed his sore right wrist in each stoppage of play.
While the Jazz fed Millsap and Jefferson in the post to the tune of 25 first-half points, the Blazers launched a bevy of errant jumpshots. The Jazz shot 61 percent on their way to a 51-36 advantage at the break.
Lilliard received loud cheers in pregame introductions and when he made the first basket. ... Utah's Earl Watson left the court for the locker room with a sore leg in the first quarter and Millsap banged his left elbow and had to go to the bench for treatment in the third quarter. Both later returned. ... Gordon Hayward, Utah's third-leading scorer, missed his third straight game with a right shoulder sprain.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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