Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) lays the ball up while guarded by Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic (27) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, April 8, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Isaac Hale)
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Strong second-half defense helped the Utah Jazz break open a close game and extend their franchise-record home winning streak.
Donovan Mitchell scored 37 points to lead Utah to its 23rd straight victory at home, a 122-103 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.
Rudy Gobert had 18 points and 21 rebounds, Joe Ingles added 13 points and six assists and Utah dominated the glass by outrebounding Portland 58-41 while snapping a two-game skid.
“This was a must-win,” Mitchell said. “We kind of put our focus on that, not letting three go to teams who are playoff bound.”
Damian Lillard scored 23 points and C.J. McCollum added 19 to lead the Trail Blazers, who lost for the third time in four games.
“We couldn’t get stops,” Lillard said.
Utah surged on offense in the third quarter when it erased a six-point deficit and built a double-digit lead while scoring 40 points on 57% shooting from the field.
Defense keyed the surge. The Jazz held Portland to 19 points on 32% shooting in the quarter. They also had a 19-6 advantage on rebounds.
“Our defense was the biggest thing,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “And our defensive rebounding in the third quarter really broke the game open.”
The Jazz went on a 25-4 run over a six-minute stretch to take a 93-72 lead with 30 seconds left in the third quarter. Mitchell, Gobert, and Ingles combined to make 10 free throws during that stretch. Ingles and Mitchell also combined to score or assist on seven baskets during the decisive run.
“It’s almost like we got better throughout the game,” Gobert said. “Communication got better. Our aggressiveness got better.”
Portland trailed by double digits the entire fourth quarter.
“We had a good defensive first half, obviously the third quarter was poor offense and poor defense, so it kind of went hand in hand to a bad quarter,” Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.
Both teams struggled with generating consistent offense in the first half. Utah shot 41% from the field and Portland shot 43%. Each team finally settled into a rhythm late in the second quarter.
The Jazz went up 46-42 when Mitchell scored back-to-back baskets and assisted on a pair of others over a 2½-minute stretch. Mitchell scored or assisted on 10 of Utah’s 20 first-half baskets.
Portland answered with a 12-0 run and took a 54-46 lead just before halftime. McCollum and Lillard scored back-to-back baskets to finish off the run.
Trail Blazers: Jusuf Nurkic played on a minutes restriction after a one-game absence due to right knee inflammation. Nurkic finished with 10 points, six rebounds, and four assists in 22 minutes. … Portland outscored Utah 10-7 in fast-break points.
Jazz: Jordan Clarkson did not play because of a sprained right ankle. It was the first game Clarkson missed this season. … Derrick Favors passed Mehmet Okur for 10th place on the Jazz career scoring list. Favors has scored 7,527 points with Utah. He finished with seven points against Portland. … Utah is now 9-1 in games with zero days rest.
Utah shot 27 free throws compared to 18 free throw attempts for Portland. The disparity was more pronounced in the third quarter when the Jazz attempted 12 free throws compared to only three for the Trail Blazers.
Lillard, who picked up a rare technical foul with 4:45 remaining in the fourth quarter, voiced his displeasure in how the game was officiated. He thought the referees allowed the Jazz to be too physical around the basket.
“It just doesn’t add up that I could be attacking teams the way I’m attacking and teams are defending me the way they defend me — (and) I just don’t get the whistle,” Lillard said. “I’m not a flopper. I play the game straight up. It’s frustrating.”
The Jazz improved to 29-0 this season in games where they’ve had a 10-0 run or better.
Trail Blazers: Host the Detroit Pistons on Saturday.
Jazz: Host the Sacramento Kings on Saturday.