for this game

Red-hot Blazers cruise past Jazz

Dec 12, 2007 - 7:09 AM By Chris Bellamy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Ticker) - Two unexpected streaks continued in the most unexpected of places Tuesday night.

The Portland Trail Blazers, who lost their first nine road games of the season, stunned the suddenly struggling Utah Jazz on their home floor, 97-89.

It was the second straight road victory for the Blazers and the first home loss since November 1 for Utah, which has now dropped four straight overall.

"We just came out kind of soft, lackadaisical," Jazz forward Paul Millsap said. "We thought, coming back home, we should have a lot of energy. But we didn't have that tonight."

Martell Webster scored 25 and Brandon Roy and Jarrett Jack added 16 apiece to lead Portland to its fourth victory in a row.

"That's our second road win, but it's our second in a row, so maybe we're turning it around a little bit," Roy said. "Everybody came out and came to play tonight. We need guys to do that every night."

After the Blazers took an 18-point lead in the third quarter, the Jazz seemed to settle down in the fourth quarter and looked poised to steal a victory with a late rally. Behind a second unit headlined by free-agent acquisition Jason Hart and second-year forward Paul Millsap, Utah pulled back into contention.

Millsap scored six points in the opening minutes of the final quarter and Hart and Gordan Giricek added crucial 3-pointers as the Jazz pulled to as close as 82-78. But even when the first team returned to the floor, the same old problems kept coming up and they never pulled ahead.

"That's our job to get out there and bring energy - especially me, I'm an energy player, that's what I'm supposed to do," Millsap said. "It's just hard to get over the hump."

Roy scored nine points - including 5-of-6 from the free-throw line - in the final period to hold the Jazz off.

Despite attempting more shots, grabbing more rebounds and committing fewer turnovers than Portland over the first two quarters of play, the Jazz found themselves down by nine at the half. An offense that came into the night scoring the fourth-most points in the league suddenly showed no signs of the cohesion and explosiveness that was largely responsible for the club's 13-5 start.

Defensively it was even worse, as the Jazz repeatedly left Portland's shooters with an ocean of space on the wings and on the baseline. Even without the post presence of LaMarcus Aldridge, who is day-to-day with plantar fasciitis, the Blazers had just enough scoring options to take advantage of Utah's porous defense.

Webster was their antagonist early on, scoring 12 points in the first quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers, both of which gave his team a lead. Backup Jarrett Jack took over in the second, scoring 10 points in a 13-3 run that pushed a one-point edge to a comfortable 11-point advantage.

"Some guys are not going to be with us (sometimes), but it shouldn't change our approach to the game," Portland coach Nate McMillan said. "We've got to play the game hard, we've got to play the game together. What it comes down to is another opportunity for someone else."

Jack, the Blazers' third-year point guard from Georgia Tech, was able to exploit an uncharacteristically soft Utah interior, driving the lane for three buckets in the paint and drawing fouls two other times, knocking down all four of his foul shots.

"I was able to get into the teeth of the defense and make some plays early, and I think I was able to help us keep that lead," Jack said. "I had a rough couple, three games, so I came in here extremely focused. I hadn't gotten a win in this building since I've been in the league."

Behind Webster and Jack, Portland shot 59 percent (20-of-34) in the first half. That momentum spilled over into the second half, as the Blazers went on a 12-4 run as their lead ballooned to 17. Steve Blake and Webster capped the run with back-to-back threes to take a commanding 67-50 lead.

"We have really been an ineffective defensive team," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We haven't been able to keep people in front of us, and when we do we don't get the kind of help we need to be successful. We're going through a little bit of a stage where we feel sorry for ourselves."

It wasn't until the waning moments of the third quarter that the Jazz finally started to come to life, and they did so without Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams.

With the final seconds ticking off the third-quarter clock, Millsap pulled down a rebound off Jason Hart's miss and buried an off-balance fallaway jumper with one-tenth of a second left to cut Utah's deficit to just 12.

But the Blazers held the Jazz in check down the stretch, as Utah missed seven of its last 11 shots and faded away. Utah shot just 38 percent (34-of-89) from the floor overall and just 16-of-23 from the foul line.

"We're just struggling. No excuses," Williams said. "We're not bringing a lot of energy, we're not playing any defense. Portland just came out and out-played us. They just played better than us."

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