Skip to Content

Jazz conclude NBA Christmas Day nightcap with 21-point victory over Blazers

SALT LAKE CITY — Before the ball was tipped off in Vivint Arena, before a basket was scored, Kyle Korver reminded the sellout crowd in attendance for the Utah Jazz versus Portland Trail Blazers game of the importance of playing on Christmas Day.

"Today's a great day," Korver said during his pregame message at midcourt. "In its purest form, today is a day of hope and joy, love and peace. It's our honor to add good basketball to the mix this year in Salt Lake City.

"On behalf of the Jazz I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. God bless you all," he continued.

For the first time in 21 years, the Jazz not only hosted the Trail Blazers on Christmas Day — but also held on for a 117-96 victory as the last of a five-game nightcap live on ESPN.

Jazz star Donovan Mitchell was just 1 year old, during the John Stockton-Karl Malone era in 1997, when Utah beat Houston 107-103 in its last Christmas game at the then-Delta Center.

The 22-year-old guard finished as the team's top scorer in the Portland victory with 19 points and two assists, including a strong alley oop flush from Jae Crowder at 4:58 in the opening quarter.

More than the victory, the national television appearance on Christmas signified a bigger message for the small-market Jazz franchise.

"The best teams in the world are playing, so it's great for us," said Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who ended with 18 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks. "It's kind of rewarding for the work we've put in the last few years, and it's a good opportunity for the world to see what we can do."

Utah has now won three of its last four games and has defeated the Blazers for the second time in less than a week. The Jazz handed Portland a 30-point loss at home last Friday.

Despite being away from family, members of both organizations were able to put their personal feelings aside to soak in the magnitude of the marquee game. This contest marked the seventh time that the Jazz have played on Christmas, improving to 5-2 on the Dec. 25 date.

"It's a credit to our players," said Jazz coach Quin Snyder on being part of the Christmas Day slate of games. "I think the work that they have done consistently leading up to this point has obviously put us in the position where we can play on this day.

"It's not an end, in and of itself, it's a nice thing," he continued. "I hope everybody enjoys it. For us, we have to get ready to compete, whether it's Christmas or New Year's or whenever."

Blazers coach Terry Stotts felt the same way as Snyder as the Blazers were playing on Christmas for the first time since 2010 and the first time against Utah on the holiday.

"Personally, I don't consider it much of a sacrifice playing on the holiday, it's part of the job," Stotts said. "I think there are a lot of people who are in the military that are sacrificing being overseas without family, to me that's a sacrifice. Playing on Christmas Day, I take it as a compliment, and I'm actually honored that we came today."

The Jazz shot particularly well from the field, connecting at a 55.4 percent clip from the field and 44.8 percent from beyond the arc, but allowed the Blazers to get within nine during the fourth before closing out the win with a 25-13 run in the final eight minutes of regulation.

Utah also shot just 52.2 percent at the free-throw line, with 17 total turnovers, but ruled the paint with 58 points to Portland's 46, largely because of Gobert's success on both ends, while holding Portland to 39.3 percent as a team.

Seven Jazz players ended in double figures, with Joe Ingles contributing 15 points, seven rebounds and five dimes, Dante Exum getting 15 off the bench in 17 minutes, Ricky Rubio adding 14 points with six assists, Jae Crowder hitting 12 points and Korver finishing with 10 points.

Former Weber State guard Damian Lillard led Portland with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists on 9-for-21 shooting.

The Jazz (17-18) will host Philadelphia on Thursday, Dec. 27, at 8:30 p.m. in a second straight game being nationally televised on TNT.

"It's good for us, but at the same time we don't play for other people, we play to win, and that's all that matters for us," Gobert said.