Utah Jazz steamroll Portland Trail Blazers 111-88, spoil Jusuf Nurkic's

SALT LAKE CITY -- On a night the Portland Trail Blazers welcomed a new face to the lineup, they languished through an all-too familiar result. The Utah Jazz defeated the Blazers 111-88 Wednesday night before 19,590 at Vivint Smart Home Arena....

Utah Jazz steamroll Portland Trail Blazers 111-88, spoil Jusuf Nurkic's

SALT LAKE CITY -- On a night the Portland Trail Blazers welcomed a new face to the lineup, they languished through an all-too familiar result.

The Utah Jazz defeated the Blazers 111-88 Wednesday night before 19,590 at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

It was the Blazers' their third consecutive loss and fifth in six games and as the players scattered their separate ways afterward for a weeklong All-Star break, it was fair to wonder: Is there a team that needs time off more than this one?

"I think the All-Star break is a good time for everybody," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said before tipoff. "I think everybody's ready for a break and ready for the sprint to the end."

Perhaps. But it's clear the Blazers (23-33) in particular need a little time away after enduring a disappointing first 56 games of the season. They enter the break 10 games below .500 and in the middle of a downward spiral. Wednesday night was simply the latest discouraging outing.

Damian Lillard (13 points, 3 of 19 shooting) was ice cold all night, CJ McCollum (18 points, 8 of 19 shooting) was saddled by first-half foul trouble and the Blazers were shooting below 40 percent well into the fourth quarter against Utah's suffocating defense.

Meanwhile, the Jazz (35-22) looked every bit like one of the best teams in the Western Conference, using a mix of stingy defense, depth and balanced scoring to overwhelm the reeling Blazers. They broke open a relatively close game with an 18-2 run in the third quarter and pushed the lead to as many as 26 points in the fourth. First-time All-Star Gordon Hayward recorded 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds, George Hill added 19 points and five rebounds and the Jazz outscored the Blazers 71-51 in the second half.

Utah's dominant second half spoiled the debut of center Jusuf Nurkic, who showed promise in his first game with the Blazers. Nurkic, whom the Blazers acquired Monday in a trade with the Denver Nuggets, came off the bench to play 21 minutes and didn't miss a shot, finishing with 13 points and seven rebounds on 5 of 5 shooting. He did a little bit of everything, snatching three steals, blocking one shot, tossing one assist and providing energy and size on defense.

"I think he showed a lot of what he can give us," Stotts said. "He was effective finishing around the basket. I think he has a nice shooting touch (in the) midrange. He's a big body, sets good screens. Honestly, he did what we thought he could do. 

"I thought what you saw tonight is the player that we traded for. He did a little bit of everything."

Nurkic entered the game with 4:22 left in the first quarter and didn't waste time making an impact. During his first shift, he blocked a Derick Favors shot in the lane and poked the ball away from Favors as the Jazz big man attempted a crossover dribble. Nurkic's first basket came with 43.2 seconds remaining in the quarter, when he rebounded an Allen Crabbe jumper and followed with a put-back layup. 

All the while, Nurkic showcased versatility on offense, swishing a 20-foot jumper, completing a nice spinning post move in transition with his left hand and providing a presence inside. 

As the Jazz were cruising to a runaway victory, every Blazers player finished with a negative plus/minus except one -- Nurkic. He recorded a plus-18.

"I'm excited about what he's going to bring to our team," Lillard said.

Of course, the positive performance could not overshadow what was an otherwise forgettable night by the Blazers -- or the frustrating manner by which the season has unfolded so far. 

The Blazers will enter the All-Star break in 10th place in the West, two games behind the eighth place Denver Nuggets and just one-half game ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans. Their once-promising season is deteriorating, but, even so, they remain in the playoff hunt. So before his players exited the locker room Wednesday, Stotts offered a simple message:

"Enjoy the break and come back in Orlando ready for a sprint to the end," he said.

So the Blazers need a break?

"Absolutely," McCollum said. "Did you see what happened in the game?"

Joe Freeman | jfreeman@oregonian.com | 503-294-5183 | @BlazerFreeman

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