The Utah Jazz defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 96-94 Thursday night to finish the regular season on 5-game win streak. The game could not have had a more different feel to it than the thrilling victory over the Suns just two days prior, which locked up a playoff berth for the Jazz.
I’d love to give a thorough recap of this game but there was very little to talk about. I attempted to take notes during the game, which I attended, but there were stretches of several minutes that I had absolutely nothing to type into my phone. It was amusing how drastically different the atmosphere was inside of EnergySolutions Arena. On Tuesday, the crowd was more electric and energized than I had seen since the last playoff game. On Thursday, the crowd was relaxed and in an overall pleasant mood. Sure, we cheered the Jazz at appropriate moments but there was no reason to get overly worked up about a meaningless game. Not when we have to save our energy for the playoffs.
With all that said, the young guys who got a chance to play extended minutes did pretty well. Devin Harris, Gordon Hayward, and Al Jefferson played most of the 1st quarter then were done for the night. Paul Millsap took the night off entirely. In their place, Alec Burks scored 18 points and both Enes Kanter and Jeremy Evans notched double-doubles. I’m pretty sure it was the first of Evans’ career, it likely was Kanter’s as well. Jeremy Evans provided the most excitement during the night, including several dunks in the 4th quarter and a blocked shot to close out the first half in which he used all of his vertical leap to get a hand on an arcing jump shot.
Even though it felt like an exhibition game, it had a surprisingly thrilling finish. After trailing most of the game, Portland slowly chipped away in the 4th quarter. Even when Jeremy Evans took over with highlight dunk after dunk, Portland still had the ball for a final possession trailing by only 2 points. Thankfully, they chose not to go for overtime, which would have served no purpose for anybody, and they drew up a play to go for the win. Their 3-point shot missed, the Jazz picked up the win. The exciting finish was dampened by the incredibly low stakes but it was still nice to see the team win the final game of the regular season. Up next, the San Antonio Spurs for the First Round of the Western Conference Playoffs!