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  • 22 Aug 2014

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Starters get assist from bench as Blazers get payback on Jazz

On Friday night at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Portland shot .367 and scored a season low in an 86-77 loss to Utah.

It was an entirely different scene Saturday night at the Rose Garden, where the Trail Blazers knocked down shots at a .507 clip in a 105-99 victory over the Jazz.

“Twenty-four hours makes a difference,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “(Friday) night, we couldn’t score against them. Tonight, we did a much better job.”

Damian Lillard scored 23 points and dished out eight assists, three other starters had big games and the Blazer bench came through in nearly unprecedented fashion to the delight of an announced sellout crowd of 20,376.

Pressed into extended duty by the ankle injuries suffered Friday night by starting shooting guard Wesley Matthews and backup point guard Ronnie Price, Nolan Smith, Luke Babbitt and Will Barton were an effective supporting cast for the hometown quintet.

Smith was 5 for 7 from the field, including a clutch 3-pointer in the final four minutes, and scored a season-high 13 points in 18 minutes. Babbitt knocked down a pair of 3s, grabbed five rebounds and had one startling good blocked shot in 24 minutes. Barton contributed seven points, three rebounds, two assists and boundless energy in his 16 minutes.

“That’s the best the bench has played all year,” Portland’s Nicolas Batum said. “All the guys who came in tonight were ready. That was big for us.”

J.J. Hickson chipped in 21 points and 11 rebounds, LaMarcus Aldridge had 18 points and 11 boards and Batum came within an assist of a triple-double for Portland (24-23). Batum finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

Randy Foye scored 23 points and Paul Millsap collected 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Jazz (26-22).

Portland reserves Smith, Babbitt (eight points) and Barton made big contributions.

“A lot of times we look too much at the points” to determine bench success, Stotts said, reprising a familiar theme tossed about by the first-year Blazer coach. “Our bench doesn’t need to be defined by scoring. Tonight, we got some scoring off the bench. The bench played very well.”

“Our bench is getting better,” Hickson said. The media “crucified them early in the season — it was something that was going to take a little bit of time. I think they’re finally starting to get it and play great basketball.”

Smith entered the game with a 2.3-point average and a .333 shooting percentage. The second-year point guard had scored in double figures only once this season, when he tallied 11 against Toronto on Dec. 10. Since then, Smith had scored a total of 14 points and played 45 minutes in nine appearances.

“Nolan did a terrific job of playing defense and making shots and playing like he knows he can,” Stotts said.

“Coach (Stotts) told me to play the way I’ve been practicing,” Smith said, “to not play so tight, to let loose, play defense and take care of the ball, and everything else will fall into place.”

Utah extended a three-point halftime lead to 63-53 on three 3-pointers by Foye midway through the third quarter. The Blazers responded with a 14-0 run, with Barton’s driving layup giving them a 67-63 edge.

“We had a nice little flow going, we missed a few layups point-blank and they started that little run,” Millsap said.

Utah tied the score at 79-79 on Alec Burks’ 3 with 8:15 remaining.

Portland then used an 11-4 spurt to go ahead 90-83 with 4:41 to play.

It was 90-87 with 3:51 left when Smith buried a 3 from the corner to make the score 93-87.

The Jazz got to within 99-96 on Foye’s 3-pointer with 33.9 seconds remaining.

Hickson’s two free throws with 19.9 seconds left made it 101-96.

Foye answered with a foul shot at 15.8 to cut the margin to 101-97, but Hickson — who finished 9 for 11 from the line — nailed down the win with another pair at the line with 14.5 ticks to go.

“We played hard,” Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. “We made some mistakes. We had the 10-point lead but got away from executing a little bit and they made a run at us. I felt good about our opportunity to come back, but we just couldn’t get over” the hump.

NOTES — Both teams were shorthanded. Portland was without Matthews, Price and reserve forward Sasha Pavlovic (foot). Utah was minus starting point guard Mo Williams (hand), reserve point guard Earl Watson (knee) and reserve forward Gordon Hayward (shoulder). ... Matthews said he is hopeful of being able to play Monday when the Blazers open a six-game trip at Minnesota. “It’s always good to get a win when you have a long, tough road trip coming up,” said Hickson, who notched his 26th double-double of the season. “We want to come back .500 or better. We’re up for the challenge.” ... All three members of the Blazer front line had double-doubles. ... Portland’s bench outscored Utah’s reserves 28-25. It was the most points scored by the Blazer subs since they totaled 35 in a 104-87 loss to the L.A. Lakers Dec. 28 at Staples Center. ... Was Batum disappointed to miss out on what would have been his fourth triple-double of the season — and third in the last seven games — by one assist? He answered by holding his thumb and forefinger a half-inch apart. “But we got the win, so I’m OK,” he said with a smile. ... Batum had the most spectacular play of the game. In the third quarter, Millsap found teammate Marvin Williams wide open underneath. As Williams rose up to dunk, Batum came from nowhere to make a block that led to a Blazer basket at the other end. ... Babbitt had the most surprising block of the game, swatting Millsap’s short jumper and collecting the rebound in the second half.

It was the second straight game in which Foye sank three 3-pointers in the third quarter against Portland. ... Stotts on Barton, the 6-5 rookie from Memphis: “Will has great basketball instincts, especially in the open court. He can create things and get to the basket. He made good decisions tonight.” ... Portland improved to 17-8 at the Rose Garden. “We never, ever want to lose in front of our home crowd,” Hickson said. “It’s good have a home crowd like this. We don’t lose too many games here.” ... Utah had won nine of its previous 11 games. ... Portland won the rebound battle 49-37 after losing it 47-40 the previous night. The Jazz “had a spurt in the middle of the fourth where they kind of controlled the boards, but we locked back in,” Hickson said. “That was a point of emphasis for us tonight.” ... Portland leads the NBA with 11 wins this season after trailing at halftime (11-16 record). ... The Blazers are 8-0 this season when shooting 50 percent or better. ... Portland made 10 of 18 3-point attempts while Utah was 8 for 19 from beyond the arc. ... ... Corbin said Hayward is day-to-day and that Williams — who underwent surgery on his hand on Jan. 7 — will see the surgeon on Feb. 15 to check the healing process and decide whether or not the pin can be removed. ... Stotts on rookie center Meyers Leonard, who had three fouls in five minutes Friday night and two fouls in six minutes Saturday night" “You have to be aggressive. He can’t worry about the fouls, can’t shy away from contact. He needs to be a presence, but he needs to anticipate better and use his athleticism and quickness to avoid being in a foul position.”