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This season, the Utah Jazz have shown great difficulty closing out teams in the fourth quarter. Last night against the Portland Trailblazers at the Rose Garden, the Jazz choked in the third quarter, getting outscored 36-22 and losing a three point lead that they had in the first half. The final score was 103-89. Portland won their series against the Jazz 3-1.
In a game that could have been winnable, thanks to Portland guard Brandon Roy going out with a bruised tail bone (yes, you are reading that right), their forward Martel Webster game off the bench, figuratively carrying his team to the win. He picked up the scoring slack, getting 24 of his 26 points in the third quarter. He was supported by LaMarcus Aldridge's 20 points and 8 rebounds.
So what went wrong for the Jazz?
- Andrei Kirilenko was out of the game with his back injury. His man on man and help defense would have really helped neutralize Webster tonight. They really need to get him back. In a post game interview, Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan said there is no timetable for his return.
- If Carlos Boozer is going to have a rough game, the rest of the team will suffer. Last night he only had 6 points, 9 rebounds. He was 3-16 from the field last night and missed both of his free throws. When he's playing well, he frees up outside shooters like CJ Miles and Kyle Korver, who chipped in 6 and 4 points respectively. Boozer also should have played more aggressively in the second half of the game, as Portland center Joel Pryzbilia had four fouls. He's possibly the best Blazer defensive big, and getting him out of the game would have opened up the paint.
- Sloan gave his team too much freedom in the third. He really should have called a time out, but instead watched as the team didn't score on eight consecutive possessions and Portland went on a tear in front of the home crowd. At times, I think he forgets how young the team is.
- Mehmet Okur (15 points, 7 rebounds) really needs to become more of a leader. He's starting to play much better than he did earlier in the season, but he needs to become a better help defender and needs to regain his ability to be a clutch shooter for the team at the end of games.
In case you were wondering, Deron Williams had 23 points and 7 assists on the night.
The Jazz have off till Tuesday when they take on the Indiana Pacers. Tomorrow's update will show us how the Jazz get down and party like a rockstar.