SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah Jazz are liking this NBA In-Season Tournament thing.
Jordan Clarkson scored 30 points on 13-of-19 shooting, while Lauri Markkanen added 21, as the Jazz defeated Portland Tuesday night, 115-99, to go to 2-0 in the inaugural tournament.
John Collins had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Jazz. Kelly Olynyk finished with 12 points and a season-high 12 rebounds. Keyonte George added 15 points and Collin Sexton 13. George and Sexton each had seven assists.
Utah won its second straight tournament game, its first on a nearly all-purple basketball court at the Delta Center.
“We’re starting to get our team rhythm, and we feel like our chemistry is coming together,” Sexton said. “We’ve just got to continue to build each and everyday. It’s going to be an everyday process, and we all can’t be heroes.”
Utah held an opponent under 100 points for the first time under head coach Will Hardy, ending a streak of 92 games, dating to April, 2022. The accomplishment offered a step forward for a defense that’s been beleaguered at times early in the season.
“We should do that more often,” Markkanen said with a smile. “There’s not much else to say. You give yourself an opportunity to win basketball games when you do that.”
“A really good team win tonight,” Hardy said. “I’m hopeful that our team understands that this is because of the work they’re putting in, and they shouldn’t be satisfied. I want them to enjoy the win tonight, and it’s back to work tomorrow.”
Utah forced a season-high 11 steals and routinely disrupted the Blazers’ offensive rhythm at key moments throughout the game.
“We’re trying to be more active as a group,” Hardy said. “We’re trying to lean into our speed. Be a little bit more proactive on that end and I think it’s been very good for us.”
Jerami Grant led Portland with 26 points. Deandre Ayton added 22 points and 10 rebounds and Shaedon Sharpe finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Skylar Mays had a game-high 10 assists.
Clarkson gave Utah an early spark with his shooting. He started 6 for 6 from the floor and scored 14 points in the first quarter. Clarkson capped a 10-2 run with a steal and dunk – his final basket in the opening period — to give the Jazz a 29-19 lead.
Utah did not commit a turnover in the game’s first 15 minutes. Portland struggled to hold onto the ball, and its sloppiness was costly. The Jazz scored 16 points off 12 Portland turnovers in the first half.
Taking care of the ball gave Utah plenty of offensive momentum. The Jazz opened the second quarter by scoring baskets on four straight possessions, punctuated by a 3-pointer from Olynyk off a steal that extended Utah’s lead to 45-31.
Portland chipped away at the deficit throughout the third quarter behind steady shooting from Grant and Ayton. The duo combined for nine baskets and cut Utah’s lead to 87-84 late in the quarter. Each time the Trail Blazers threatened to overtake the Jazz, Clarkson countered with timely baskets to keep Utah a step ahead.
“We were decisive with everything — shoot, pass, dribble,” Clarkson said. “That was a big thing with us tonight. Everybody made their decisions quick.”
The Jazz ended Portland’s comeback hopes in the fourth quarter. Markkanen scored three baskets to fuel a decisive 13-0 run that put Utah ahead 108-93 with 5:40 remaining.
The Jazz will try to go to 3-0 in the In-Season Tournament Friday night when the Phoenix come to town at 8:00 p.m.