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Sharpshooting Blazers extinguish Jazz with third-quarter blitz

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Damian Lillard (left), LaMarcus Aldridge and the Trail Blazers starters were able to take the night off early Friday in a rout of the Utah Jazz at Moda Center.What team out there can beat the Trail Blazers right now?

Not Utah, that's for sure.

The Jazz were the pinatas, the Blazers the ones swinging the sticks from the opening tip en route to a 130-98 demolition job on the Jazz Friday night at the Rose Garden.

The verdict wasn't unexpected given that Portland (17-3) entered the game with the Western Conference's best record, Utah (4-17) the worst.

But the oddsmakers' 11 1/2-point spread hardly did justice to the whipping the Blazers administered. And the game wasn't as close as the final score indicates. The Jazz scored the game's final 10 points, long after garbage time had ensued.

The Blazers exerted their dominance in many ways, none more so than from beyond the 3-point line, where they made 17 of 23 attempts -- an NBA record for percentage with more than 15 makes (73.9).

How did that happen?

"A lot of luck," said Wesley Matthews, who was 4 for 6 on 3-point shots on his way to a game-high 24 points. "We were feeling it, apparently."

Damian Lillard enjoyed one of the finest shooting games of his young career, scoring 21 points on 7 for 9 from the field and 5 for 6 on 3-pointers. The second-year point guard did it all in the first half, too. He didn't take a shot in the third quarter and sat down with the rest of the Portland regulars for the final period.

Portland shot .554 for the game and was 15 for 21 from the field in both the first and third quarters.

The Blazers' third quarter was suitable for framing. They jumped to a 39-22 lead after one quarter, then watched the Jazz trim what was once a 20-point edge to eight before taking a 67-56 advantage into intermission.

"When the offense comes easy," Portland coach Terry Stotts said, "there's a tendency to let up on defense."

Portland had both going in the third quarter, outscoring Utah 40-13 while holding the Jazz to 6-for-29 shooting over those 12 minutes. Mathews' 3 put the Blazers over the century mark with 1:31 left in the quarter. By that time, it was 102-65, and soon thereafter, Stotts had the luxury of emptying his bench.

"We shot the ball really well at the start, but we had to pick it up at the defensive end of the floor," said Lillard, who played only 25 minutes. "That was the emphasis at halftime. The game changed when we started to defend in the third quarter."

"I liked the urgency we came out with at the beginning of the game and the beginning of the second half," Stotts said. "We shot the ball well; we shot the 3 well. But more importantly, the way we played defensively in the third quarter was what we needed. We tightened it up. Our transition from our defense from the second to the third quarters was what we were looking for."

It was the first laugher of the season for the Blazers, who have been piling up victories but grinding out most of them. It doubled the previous high margin of victory, a 113-98 win over Denver on Nov. 1, and allowed the starters some rest in preparation for Saturday night's home date with Dallas.

"I like it when we ice it down early and the young guys get a chance to play," said reserve forward Dorell Wright, whose six points in 10 minutes included 2-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc. "Gives us a chance to have everybody fresh for a big game against a good team."

The third quarter has often been the Blazers' strength this season.

"The second half, we just lock down on both ends," Wright said. "That's what playoff teams do. That's what we did tonight."

"Knowing we had a back-to-back against a good team, to be able to keep everybody under 30 minutes, you like to be able to do that," Stotts said.

  • NOTES: It was a season-high scoring total for Portland, which hadn't tallied that many points since a 136-106 blowout of San Antonio last March. … Portland set a franchise record with its 17 3-point field goals (the previous record was 16, set four times). … The Blazers had their highest-scoring first quarter and first half of the season. The 67 points were the most they have scored in any half. … The Blazers have won at least 17 of their first 20 games for the third time in franchise history (19 in 1990-91, 17 in 1977-78). … Lillard scored Portland's first six points on a pair of treys. "I had a couple of good looks to start," said Lillard, who came in shooting .391 from the field. "They both went in, so it got me in a good rhythm." … Lillard has made at least two 3-pointers in an NBA-high 18 games this season and is the first Blazer to make multiple 3's in 12 straight games since Damon Stoudamire in 2005. … LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points and 15 rebounds. It was his third straight 20/10 game and seventh of the season, and his 10th double-double. Aldridge becomes the first player with 450 points, 200 rebounds and 25 steals in his team's first 20 games since Boston's Kevin Garnett and Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki did it in 2004-05. … Nicolas Batum also had a big game, going for 13 points and seven rebounds on 5-for-6 shooting, including 3 for 3 from downtown.

  • If the Blazers play .500 ball the rest of the way, they'll finish the regular season 48-34 -- probably good enough to make the playoffs. … Portland entered the game third in the league in 3-point percentage (.410) and fourth in makes per game (9.42). "Our 3-point shooters are good," Stotts said. "You don't expect to shoot that well, but our 3's are in rhythm -- they're good shots for the guys taking them. When those guys are taking open 3's, there's a good chance they're going in." … Wright said the Blazers are unselfish, which leads to taking good shots, which leads to a good shooting percentage. "Guys move the ball; guys are really into the hockey assist," said the 10-year NBA veteran, referring to the pass that leads to an assist. "If you have a good shot, pass it to a guy with a better shot. Good teams do that. if we're going to continue to shoot the ball like this, play well and get wins, that's what it's going to take." … The Blazers are 5-0 this season in the second of back-to-back games. … Lillard badly outplayed Utah rookie Trey Burke, who was 3-for-9 shooting and had seven points and one assist in 16 minutes. "He's a good rookie point guard," Lillard said. "I was in his position (last year). He's not going to back down; he's going to try to get the best of me. My mind-set is, I'm not going to let that happen. I'm going to go out there and attack him." … Twelve Blazers scored, including reserve Thomas Robinson, who had 13 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes.

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