Jazz look to build on bounce-back performance, face Blazers

In an interesting coincidence, the Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers both came away feeling good after lopsided results in their most recent games.

That’s not shocking for the Jazz, who bounced back from a disappointing one-point home loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday to wallop the same team 127-105 on Saturday night in an unusual back-to-back rematch.

It does seem a bit more surprising for the Blazers, who visit Salt Lake City on Monday night to take on the Jazz. Portland took a positive spin to their 118-103 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Friday.

Blazers coach Chauncey Billups liked that his team didn’t give up after falling behind by 21 points to the Warriors, who have the NBA’s best record.

Portland pulled within eight points with 5:31 remaining in San Francisco after Anfernee Simons hit one of his five 3-pointers of the game. Unfortunately for the Blazers, Stephen Curry responded with back-to-back 3s to all but put the game away.

“I was just proud of our guys,” Billups said. “We kept fighting, kept scrapping. It was a game and they kind of pulled away from us in the fourth. But I was happy. We played extremely hard (Thursday). They played their butts off.”

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum both struggled, scoring 16 points each on a combined 11-for-32 shooting. But Simons led Portland with 19 points off the bench, and Jusuf Nurkic scored 17 as the supporting cast had a good showing.

“That’s the thing to take away from it that we played hard the whole game,” Simons said. “We put ourselves in a great position. Obviously, they went on a couple of runs, but most of all we played hard. That’s what I’m excited about. That’s what I’m proud of.”

The Jazz were anything but proud after Devonte’ Graham hit a last-second game-winning 3 in an upset 98-97 win for the Pelicans in Utah. Players and coaches openly admitted that performance was far below the team’s expectations. It came several nights after a similar home loss to Memphis.

“We’ve established an identity to this team,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after Friday’s setback. “We don’t look like that team. That’s where the inconsistency lies. I think we know how we need to play. It’s just a question of us executing.”

The Jazz hit all the right notes in Saturday’s game as they jumped ahead of New Orleans by double figures in the first quarter and then continued to cruise while building a 40-point lead in the fourth quarter. Utah was boosted by a season-best 20 3-pointers on 57.1 percent shooting.

Donovan Mitchell had an efficient night with 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, while Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson each added 20 points.

“We were locked in and focused,” Mitchell said. “When we’re that team for 48 minutes, we’re a pretty tough team to beat.”

The trick for the Jazz, who’ve won five of seven games, is to get into that groove and stay there.

“We’re not the same team as we were last year,” Snyder said. “Everybody has had different experiences from the time the playoffs ended to this year. Because of that, finding a new level of consistency is something we need to work toward.”