Nicolas Batum took the ball and headed for the basket, he of the already 13 fourth quarter points scored, poised to tie the game. All at once, he crumpled to the ground, the ball rolled over to Utah's Gordon Hayward and as Batum lay on the ground, the Portland Trail Blazers chances of winning a game they had led for so long lay there with him. There were more chances in the free throw endgame, but Portland couldn't get a three-point shot off or rebound Utah's last missed free throw and the Jazz beat the Blazers 93-89 Monday night.
The Blazers got out early and were in control for the most part. LaMarcus Aldridge was winning his ‘Is he an All-Star?' matchup with Utah's Paul Millsap, especially when he took over in the third quarter with 14 points in that quarter, 25 for the game. But it was Millsap who would have the final say, as his six fourth quarter points gave the Jazz the lead and also helped close the game out. Millsap added 15 rebounds in the game as well.
Utah all at once in the fourth quarter attacked, attacked, attacked the Trail Blazers, who went cold after a Batum three-a-thon early in the quarter. Following that, Portland went almost six minutes in the fourth quarter without scoring while the Jazz, behind Millsap and point guard Earl Watson (four points, two steals), took control.
The Jazz's aggression paid off on the glass and the free throw line, as they enjoyed a considerable advantage in both categories. Utah had 50 rebounds to Portland's 37, including a whopping 17 to five advantage on the offensive glass. From the line, the Jazz were 26-38 while Portland managed to only get 13 attempts, making 10. This helped the home team Jazz overcome a 38 percent shooting night to win anyway.
Dave at Blazers Edge breaks down the break down in the Portland fourth quarter:
The beginning of the fourth period was typified by two trends. Portland's wobbly defense broke altogether. Their halfcourt rotations were slow, their transition effort poor...it was as if the Jazz had developed powers vampiric, sapping all of the energy Portland had evidenced early in this game and using it for themselves. BUT the Blazers were saved by Nicolas Batum going on a tear, popping three-pointers like they were Cheetos. He connected with three triples in four Portland possessions in just two minutes, putting the Blazers up 5 again with 9:00 left in the game. It looked like the Blazers might earn the victory after all. But seasoned 2011-12 observers know what happens when the Blazers have to rely on threes to keep them afloat. Batum's grand makes turned into spectacular misses for the likes of Felton and Crawford. Indeed, after Batum hit his third long ball at the 9:10 mark the Blazers did not score again until the clock read 3:29. The closest non-blocked shot by far in that span was a 15-footer. Six attempts came from 20 feet or more. Meanwhile the Jazz rebounded the orange off the ball, won every 50-50 opportunity, blitzed their break opportunities, and just destroyed Portland in the paint.
For more on Utah, check out SLC Dunk.