Lillard has 28 and Blazers down Jazz 102-94
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) With Portland trailing Utah to start the fourth quarter, Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard did what an All-Star is supposed to do.
Lillard scored 14 points in the final period and finished with 28 for the short-handed Trail Blazers in a much-needed 102-94 victory over Utah on Friday night.
"I definitely feel like there's times I have to assert myself," he said.
Lillard grabbed attention last weekend by taking part in a record five All-Star events. Last-season's Rookie of the Year was a first-time All-Star, earning a spot on the West team by vote of the conference's coaches.
The Blazers need Lillard to take over games like he did against the Jazz in the absence of fellow All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, who sat out with a left groin injury.
Robin Lopez had 12 points and a career-high 18 rebounds for the Blazers, who avoided a season-high fourth straight loss as they struggle to keep pace in the Western Conference.
"When you're going through a tough stretch, it's hard to get back on track sometimes," Lillard said. "This win will get us back on track."
Enes Kanter matched his career-high with 25 points and added 10 rebounds for the Jazz, who lost their second straight after a three-game winning streak.
Utah opened the final quarter with a 73-64 lead, but Portland answered with a 7-0 run to close within 73-71 and went ahead on Lillard's 3-pointer with 9:18 left. Energized by regaining the lead, Lillard's alley-oop dunk off a dish from Nicolas Batum made it 80-75 with 6:07 left.
"He's always in attack mode," Utah's Trey Burke said of Lillard.
Utah kept it close down the stretch, with Richard Jefferson's 3-pointer narrowing the gap to 85-83. Batum answered with a 3-pointer for the Blazers.
Kanter's jumper got Utah within 94-91 with 1:21 to go, but Mo Williams' jumper extended it again for the Blazers, who cruised the rest of the way. Portland outscored the Jazz 38-21 in the final period.
"I thought in the fourth quarter we had a nice cushion," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "They just came out right from the beginning of the fourth and got a turnover and made a 3-point shot. We made another mistake and they scored on it, and they ran from there."
Portland was playing its second game without Aldridge, who leads the team with 23.9 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. He is expected to sit out Sunday night's game against Minnesota before he is reevaluated.
Dorell Wright started in Aldridge's place.
The Blazers also were without forward Joel Freeland, who has a right knee sprain, and Meyers Leonard, who sprained his left ankle in practice on Monday.
Portland's front court got even thinner when Batum, who has been fighting the flu, retreated to the locker room late in the first half. Will Barton started the second half, but Batum returned late in the third quarter.
The Jazz were without forward Derrick Favors, who missed his second straight game because of hip issues. Favors is averaging 12.9 points and nine rebounds a game. Kanter started in his place and led both teams with 15 points at the half.
The Blazers led by as many as six points in the first quarter, but the Jazz closed in and went ahead 19-18 on Diante Garrett's driving layup.
Portland reclaimed a 28-25 lead midway through the second quarter on Barton's fast-break 360-degree dunk. Lillard's 3-pointer extended the lead to 43-37.
Both teams wrestled for the lead through the third quarter, until the Jazz appeared to make a move, going up 62-57 on Trey Burke's deep 3-pointer. It was Utah's biggest lead of the game to that point.
Utah extended the lead to 68-60 on Alec Burks' layup.