“Mental toughness through fatigue.” 

Those were the words head coach Quin Snyder said before Utah tipped off with Portland on Wednesday night — and for good reason. Utah is coming off a five-game road trip, a back-to-back in their most recent set of games, and in the middle of a brutal stretch that has them playing six games in nine nights. 

So yes, it would make perfect sense if the Jazz entered Wednesday tired and not mentally focused, especially against a Trailblazers team on a five-game losing streak. 

Wasting no time messing around, Utah jumped out to a double-digit lead early on and never looked back, dominating Portland 123-85. 

“A lot of guys did some good things,” Snyder said postgame. You want to play the right way, and every time you do that, it’s another layer and you just got to continue to build on that.”

Bojan Bogdanovic continued his hot streak with one of his most efficient games of the season. In just 24 minutes — he left in the middle of the third quarter with a right leg contusion and did not return — he scored 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field and 6-of-9 from beyond the arc. He added four rebounds, two assists and finished tied for the team-high with a +43 rating. 

He was particularly dominant in the third quarter when the Jazz turned a 28-point lead into a 46-point advantage, scoring 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. 

Bogdanovic now averaging 27.7 points on 59% shooting from three-point territory.

It was also an excellent night for Royce O’Neale, who continues to be Utah’s ideal glue guy by doing a little bit of everything. He finished with a double-double of 10 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists, but his dominance far outreached those numbers as he was also a +43 in the game. 

His ability to knock down open threes — even being encouraged by his teammates to shoot more — helps space the floor for the Jazz offensively. But his real value comes on the defensive side of the ball, where he often picks up the opposing team’s best perimeter player, using his strength and length to make things difficult. 

As far as the game went, it was an impressive performance because Utah took care of business as it should’ve. Throughout the season, particularly as of late, they’ve struggled to put the nail in the coffin early in some of their opponents, often letting them climb back into the game in the second half.

That wasn’t the case on Wednesday. 

“I liked how we moved the ball, I liked how we defended,” Snyder said. “I think the thing that sometimes happens when you get a big lead is you change how you play. I didn’t think that happened, I felt like we continued to play the right way on both ends.”

Portland took the early lead following a Drew Eubanks bucket, but Utah rattled off a quick 16-4 run and never looked back from that point on. The biggest takeaway from the opening quarter came when Mike Conley, who’d been struggling of late, knocked down a three-pointer, finishing off a successful first quarter in which he moved very well. 

Leading by 18 after one, Portland opened the second quarter with a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 33-21. But the Jazz responded with a 13-1 run as Jordan Clarkson made the Blazers pay in the paint with six points. 

Utah led 63-35 at the break. 

The third quarter belonged to the Jazz as they went on a 14-0 run following a quick bucket by the Blazers. Bogdanovic was the primary catalyst on offense, but Utah’s defense got the job done, limiting Portland to 14 points on 5-of-19 shooting in the quarter. 

With the starters resting for the final 12 minutes, Eric Paschall, Jared Butler, Udoka Azubuike, and newcomer Juancho Hernangomez got some significant run. Azubuike led the group with six points while Paschall, Butler, and Hernangomez finished with five each.

Nickel Alexander-Walker with five assists and three rebounds in 12 minutes. 

“It’s really fun,” Alexander-Walked said of playing for the Jazz. “As far as crowds go, it reminds me of college. … That real loud, rowdy atmosphere where after every play you hear the oohs, or screams or something. I can only imagine what playoff basketball is like, I’m excited for that.”

Donovan Mitchell finished with 16 points, six assists, five rebounds, and a +43 rating, while Rudy Gobert added nine points and 10 rebounds. Conley finished with five assists. 

Utah hits the road again when it travels back to Texas to face San Antonio on Friday as Spurs head coach Greg Popovich goes for the NBA’s all-time wins record. The Jazz will then fly back to Utah to face Sacramento on Saturday night. 


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