Apr 8, 2011, 8:10 AM EDT
It was a workman like performance by the Blazers. Not a lot of flash, they were just the better team and they never let up.
And they needed the win. It moved them half a game ahead of the Hornets for the six seed in the West. It matters — the six seed likely gets Dallas, seven seed gets the Lakers. Portland feels it has a shot against Dallas (and the Lakers would be happy to avoid Portland). Los Angeles is a harder road.
But now Portland has Gerald Wallace. He does a little of everything for this team and on a night they needed scoring he pitched in 29 (on 16 shots). He was getting inside and was still 5-9 on jumpers. Plus he had 8 boards. And defended like mad. He is a great fit for what Portland does and makes them much more dangerous in the playoffs.
Devin Harris was back for the Jazz after a seven-game absence and looked sharp, but the Jazz are giving the kids their due now. And that leads to challenges. Gordon Hayward was barely a factor (he had 10 points, still). There were fourth quarter runs to make it a game, then the Blazers tightened their defense and the result was the Jazz taking rushed long jumpers against the shot clock. There is still learning to do.
Next up for Portland is the hated Lakers Friday night (and Los Angeles looks plenty beatable right now). A win helps them get what they want, which is to avoid those same Lakers in the first round.