PORTLAND (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah Jazz had a chance at the 3-seed and a division title, but considering where they were two and a half months ago, they’ll take where they finished.
Former Weber State star Damian Lillard scored 36 points, as the Portland Trail Blazers handed the Utah Jazz a 102-93 loss in their regular season finale, dropping the Jazz to the 5th seed in the Western Conference. The Jazz will open the NBA playoffs on the road Sunday against Oklahoma City.
“Hopefully a game like tonight, a team as focused as they were, they dictated to us,” said head coach Quin Snyder. “But we’ll take it and let it help us. This group has had an excellent season. The year is not over and we get a chance to play in the postseason.”
The loss ended Utah’s six-game winning streak and was the Jazz second loss in its last 17 road games.
“It would have been great to have home court advantage,” said Rudy Gobert, who had 13 points and 13 rebounds. “But we lost tonight, so we’ll have start in OKC, and we’re going to be ready to play.”
Portland raced out to a 14-point halftime lead with Lillard leading the way with 19 points at the break. Lillard made 13 of 25 shots and also dished out 10 assists.
The Blazers stretched the lead to as high as 24 points in the third quarter before the Jazz made one last run.
Utah was able to cut the Portland lead down to 11 midway through the fourth quarter before Lillard put the game away.
With Donovan Mitchell struggling from the field, making just 6 of 23 shots, the Jazz as a team shot just 37 percent from the field. However,
Ricky Rubio fought through foul trouble to score 17 points, while Rudy Gobert added 13 points and 13 rebounds. Jae Crowder had 12 points off the bench.
C.J. McCollum scored 19 points for Portland.
“It was good for the new guys to experience this yet to play a team like Portland who is obvioulsy a playoff team,” said Derrick Favors about the playoff-type atmosphere. “So, this is just getting ready for the playoffs. This was a game we needed and we didn’t get the result that we wanted, but we’ve got to learn from it and move on.”
The Jazz (48-34) lost three of four games to Oklahoma City this season, but all four games were played before the new year. Utah finished the regular season winning 29 of its final 35 games.
“They’re a really good team,” Snyder said about the Thunder. “They’ve been good against us, they’ve played us tough obviously. They beat us three times, but I’m happy we’re going to have an opportunity to play. We’re going to play on the road to start, which is a little different, but we’re going to get a home game at some point, too.”
“It’s a good team, a physical team,” said Gobert. “It’s going to be a good matchup.”
The Jazz were the 5th seed in last year’s playoffs and knocked off the Los Angeles Clippers in seven games.
Here is the playoff schedule against Oklahoma City
Game 1: Sunday, 4/15 at OKC 4:30 MT
Game 2: Wednesday, 4/18 at OKC 6:00 MT
Game 3: Saturday, 4/21 at Utah 8:00 MT
Game 4: Monday, 4/23 at Utah 8:30 MT
Game 5: Wednesday, 4/25 at OKC
Game 6: Friday 4/27 at Utah
Game 7: Sunday 4/29 at OKC