Utah Jazz remain cold from 3, but do enough of everything else to blow past Portland

Well, the Utah Jazz did not solve their 3-point shooting woes on Friday night against Portland.

As it turns out, though, there are other ways to score.

The Jazz even figured out ways to use some of them once they got over their lethargic, moribund, tired opening half.

The end result? At its most basic, a 122-103 victory over Portland.

A layer below, though? Calming the rising panic that surely would have overtaken a significant swath of the fanbase had Utah dropped three games in a row, all to likely Western Conference playoff qualifiers.

How fortuitous for the Jazz, then, that playing high-activity defense, forcing bad shots and/or turnovers, pushing the ball down the court, and either getting to the rim or working the open spots in the midrange.

Moving the ball around — it worked.

Putting effort in on the boards — it paid off.

Playing with energy and force — it had an impact.

In the first half, Utah was showing all the signs of a tired team playing its third game in four nights, their legs apparently heavy after an intense overtime affair the night before. The blender? Psssshh … that would require movement, which would require energy. And so, isolation — bolstered by the occasional kick pass for a 3 — was the order of the day.

And they got what you’d expect out of that.

With only eight assists on 20 first-half baskets, they went into the break trailing 56-53.

And it’s not that a three-point halftime deficit is some egregious failing, but considering the Jazz had a 28-23 rebounding advantage, committed only five turnovers, allowed just four offensive rebounds and a mere five fast-break points … well, that’s their recipe for a sizable advantage, not a deficit.

Halftime, as usual, seemed to provide the juice they needed.

Hands were in passing lanes, and feet were sliding into better position. Suddenly, neither Damian Lillard nor CJ McCollum could buy a basket. And the Jazz pushed the pace. Again and again.

Donovan Mitchell pump-faked a 3, drove past the out-of-position defender, looked like he was going to challenge the rim defender for a vicious throw down attempt, but then contorted for the easy layup instead. (He finished with 37 points, five rebounds and four assists.)

Rudy Gobert shrugged off the diminutive-by-comparison (and aptly-named-in-this-case) Nassir Little, grabbed a rebound over the top of him, shot-faked, then simply mulled him out of the way for a lay-in-and-one. (He finished with 18 points, 21 rebounds, and two blocks.)

They won the third by a 40-19 margin.

In the end, it was another lackluster game from beyond the arc — rookie Elijah Hughes buried their final attempt of the night to get them to 12 for 42 (28.6%).

It’s just that with all the other stuff they finally did, that didn’t matter so much this time.