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  • 27 Dec 2014

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Blazers shoot to easy win over Utah

NBA teams rarely lose when they shoot as well as the Trail Blazers did Monday night at the Rose Garden.

Portland shot .575 from the field on its way to a 120-114 victory over Utah in its preseason home finale, but that’s not the entire story.

The Blazers (3-3) fired at an 80-percent clip in the first quarter — 16 for 20 — storming to a 41-26 lead. The margin was 70-46 at the half as the hosts shot .692 through the break.

Portland stoked the advantage to 27 points in the third quarter before the Jazz (4-3) closed the gap in garbage time to make the final score respectable.

“The first half was fun to watch,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “We got a lot of flow, a lot of rhythm at the offensive end.”

Small forward Nicolas Batum led Portland with 27 points, scoring 15 of them in the whirlwind first quarter. Batum — who entered the game shooting .350 from the field — was 9 for 15, including 5 for 8 from 3-point range.

“Everybody was worried about Nic’s shooting,” Stotts said. “I ran more plays for him than I usually do, but he was getting better shots tonight. He got in a rhythm.”

Rookie point guard Damian Lillard had a big game, too, with 21 points and eight assists, but also had six turnovers in his 33 minutes. Stotts gave him a “mixed review.”

“Damian played a solid first half,” the first-year Portland coach said. “The second half, he was loose with the ball. Three or four of his turnovers were unforced — poor decisions when he was trying to make a great play.

“He shot the ball well, made a lot of good plays. On the whole he played a very good game, but he can’t have that many of those type of turnovers.”

Stotts said his two concerns about the Blazers’ performance were defense and turnovers. Utah shot .519 from the field, and Portland had 25 giveaways.

“Utah was shooting 50 percent most of the night, and we had 11 turnovers in the third quarter,” Stotts said. “We got loose with the ball. It was a good win and I was glad there were a lot of good performances. But big picture, we have to do a better job defensively and taking care of the ball.”

NOTES — Portland ends its preseason schedule with a game Thursday night at Utah. The Blazers open the regular season at home against the Los Angeles Lakers on Halloween night. ... Portland won despite resting All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who dressed but sat out the entire game. ... Batum, Lillard and J.J. Hickson combined to make 16 of 18 field-goal attempts in the first half. ... Hickson collected 16 points on 8-for-9 shooting to go with eight rebounds in 24 minutes. “That’s J.J’s best game of the preseason,” Stotts said. “He played well at both ends. That’s the way we need him to play.” ... Stotts sat backup guard Nolan Smith for the game, giving 16 minutes to Coby Karl. The son of Denver coach George Karl had five points, two assists and two rebounds. “I just wanted to give Coby another look with our regulars,” Stotts said. ... Rookie big men Joel Freeland (11 points, two rebounds in 21 minutes) and Meyers Leonard (eight points, four rebounds in 21 minutes) both fouled out. ... Reserve center Enes Kanter led Utah with 18 points and six rebounds, making 7 of 7 shots from the field.