NBA: Jazz continue strong start to season, top Trail Blazers
Malik Beasley scored a game-high 29 and Jordan Clarkson fired in 28 points, including eight straight in crunch time, to boost the visiting Utah Jazz to a 118-113 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night.
Lauri Markkanen added 23 points and 10 rebounds a night after tallying a career-high 38 points in a home win over Phoenix to help the Jazz pull off a difficult back-to-back sweep.
With its surprisingly strong start, Utah claimed sole possession of the top spot in the Western Conference with a 12-6 record.
The Jazz trailed by a dozen in the first quarter and then built a 19-point lead by about the middle of the third quarter before closing it out.
Anfernee Simons led Portland with 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, while Josh Hart finished with 19 points and eight rebounds after a strong fourth quarter.
Both teams finished without their point guards.
Damian Lillard reaggravated his right calf in the third quarter moments after Mike Conley exited with a left knee injury. Lillard made 1 of 12 3-pointers en route to 13 points with seven assists, while Conley attempted one shot and didn’t score for Utah.
8-0 run by Jordan Clarkson 🔥 pic.twitter.com/NJJ5XflZf9
— NBA TV (@NBATV) November 20, 2022
Hart ignited a Portland rally by hustling for a couple of offensive rebounds on one possession, leading to free throws, as the Trail Blazers pulled to within 104-97 with 5:20 left in the game.
Simons and Hart then made running layups to trim Utah’s lead to three, 104-101, with 3:59 remaining.
With Portland ahead 108-107, Clarkson went to work. He drained a long 3-pointer, then drove for a layup and converted the three-point play to boost the Jazz’s lead to four. He sank another jumper after Simons split a pair at the foul line to put Utah up 115-109 with 44.2 seconds remaining.
The Blazers scored four points to make it a two-point game, but Beasley sealed the victory with a pair of clutch free throws with 12.9 seconds to play.
Portland took advantage of a frigid start by Utah, jumping out to a 17-5 lead. Utah’s bench helped trim that lead to 23-20 by the end of the first quarter, thanks to an 8-0 run and a 3-pointer by Simone Fontecchio with 3.4 seconds remaining.
Clarkson and Markkanen teamed up on a 7-0 surge as Utah captured a seven-point lead, which they then held onto for a 58-51 halftime edge.
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