SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Jazz dropped their first game back in Salt Lake City since Dec. 14 in a 96-91 fourth quarter decision against the Portland Trail Blazers Monday night, moving what has traditionally been a strong home record to 11-6.
Too little, too late
After treading water through an offensively stagnant third quarter, the Jazz pushed through their wall and posted 13 points in the final 2:08 of the game, only to have their comeback attempt fall short as the Blazers stayed hot at the free throw line. Deron Williams led the Jazz with 11 fourth quarter points but didn't receive any help substantial enough to wipe away Utah's 8-point deficit late in the game as no other Jazzman scored more than four points in the final quarter.
"They played better than us," Williams said. "They came out aggressively in the third quarter, (and) I think the first five minutes of the third quarter goes along like the start of the game; especially when you have a close game. We've seen that happen to us several times this year…where the first couple minutes of the third quarter have been a struggle for us."
Rookie Gordon Hayward sat on the sidelines through the first three quarters of Monday night's game, but was given the chance to rip off the breakaways with the start of the fourth. Regular sixth man C.J. Miles had already played 14:03 and tallied three rebounds, one assist and 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting, but hadn't made case enough to be put back in the rotation before Hayward as the Jazz began the final quarter tied at 66 with the Blazers.
"He played well the other night. He deserved to play more than what I played him," coach Jerry Sloan said of the 12 minutes Hayward played in Wednesday's 112-107 win over Minnesota. "I thought he did fine (tonight)."
Miles played another 6:50 in the fourth quarter and ended with 10 points, while Hayward earned four points on 4-of-4 shooting from the charity stripe in another 12-minute game.
The return of Wesley Matthews
Still exchanging nods and handshakes with the Jazz bench, but this time wearing red and black and sporting No. 2, former Jazzman Wesley Matthews took the floor at EnergySolutions Arena to a standing ovation from the Salt Lake City crowd. After spending his rookie season with the Jazz and averaging 9.4 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, Matthews parted ways with the franchise and assumed his role in Portland.
In the opposite locker room, having taken a game against his former team to even the season series at 1-1, Matthews said the temporary return to Utah was sweet in numerous respects.
"I wasn't expecting (the ovation) at all; it felt great. I really appreciate their support. Jazz fans have always been great to me, they've been great to the organization, and I just appreciate it," Matthews said. "It was fun being back and fun playing…especially ‘cause we got the win."
Matthews posted 14 points, eight rebounds and three assists against the Jazz, but shot just 4-of-14 from the field.