Blazers break through at CenturyLink Arena

Portland tops Utah in the first NBA game in the Treasure Valley in 10 years.

clangrill@idahostatesman.comOctober 12, 2013 

— A trip to Boise turned out to be just what the Portland Trail Blazers needed.

Portland defeated the Utah Jazz 96-86 on Friday night at CenturyLink Arena. It was the Blazers’ first win of the preseason in three tries. Utah dropped to 1-1.

The Blazers ended last season on a 13-game losing streak. Combined with their preseason losses, it had been 15 games since Portland last tasted victory.

So, preseason or not, this was a win that the Blazers needed.

“It is important,” coach Terry Stotts said. “Winning breeds winning, and sometimes you take the preseason with a grain of salt, with the outcome. But you do need to have the things you’ve been teaching reinforced.”

The Blazers are the lone affiliate of the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League, and they agreed in March to play the Jazz in Boise. The fans showed their appreciation by packing the house. An announced crowd of 6,268 cheered the action on both ends of the court, but the Blazers appeared to have won the fans over by the end of the game.

“It was pretty much a Portland Trail Blazers home game,” Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. “I wasn’t surprised there was a lot of Trail Blazers fans. I know Utah is a short drive away from here, and there could have been a lot of Jazz fans, but … it was good to hear the crowd on our side when we made a play. We had our home uniforms on and it felt like a home game.”

Lillard, last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year, showed the crowd every weapon in his offensive arsenal.

First it was an alley-oop pass from Wesley Matthews. Then it was a drive down the lane for a thundering slam dunk. When he hit a 3-pointer late in the second quarter, it put Portland up 41-31.

Lillard kept the plays coming — and his team rolling — the rest of the way. He finished with a game-high 23 points, while Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 20 points.

Two-time All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points and eight rebounds for Portland, and looked sharp after missing the first preseason game with a hip injury.

He said he enjoys it when the preseason takes the Blazers off the beaten path like it did Friday night.

“It’s fun for us,” Aldridge said. “We definitely love all of our fans everywhere, so to see our fans here and give them an entertaining show, it’s fun for us.”

Four Portland players were assigned to Idaho last season. One of those players, Joel Freeland, said he enjoyed being back at CenturyLink Arena with his regular teammates.

“It was cool to be back here,” he said. “I love the court and I love the arena.”

And after notching a win in front of a sellout crowd, Freeland said he’s up for making Boise an annual trip.

“Sure, why not?” he said.

NOTE: Former Stampede player Justin Holiday played a little more than 14 minutes for the Jazz. He notched one assist.

Chris Langrill: 377-6424

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