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Great fourth quarter leads Utah to victory over Portland

In the NBA, there is a fine line between being good and being excellent.

Good NBA teams find themselves in close games and sometimes win. Great teams find ways to win. Good teams sometimes react to adversity. Great teams react with important games.

Monday night against Portland, Utah proved to be a great team in the NBA. After seeing their 22-point lead evaporate to single digits early in the fourth quarter, the Jazz responded in a big way to claim the 129-107 victory over the Trailblazers.

“As you spread out and take shots, the lanes to the basket suddenly open up,” head coach Quin Snyder said after the game. “In these situations the ball doesn’t need to move, it just needs to be landed.… So I’m good with that too.”

In what was seen as a battle between two of the best backcourt in the NBA, a 7-foot Frenchman stole the show.

Rudy Gobert, all-star and defensive defensive player of the year, has been sensational on both sides of the pitch.

Defensively, the big man did a great job defending both players in the pick-and-roll, not allowing Portland guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to attack downhill. It also protected the rim when needed and had multiple deflections.

Offensively he was a monster on the block, finishing with almost double-digit dunks. He also did a great job of not speeding up, constantly hitting the ball and finding the man open for three points, tying his season high with three assists.

Overall, Gobert finished with his 16th double-double when he registered 21 points and 16 rebounds. He added a steal, a block and finished with a record score of +29 in 32 minutes.

“As long as we play the right way I don’t care how many shots I get,” said Gobert, who finished 9 of 11 from the floor. “If we attack where it hurts and do the right read, we’re going to get under the rim or three wide open. It all depends on how we play. … As long as we move the ball and share the ball, it doesn’t really matter.

Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley won the backcourt battle against Lillard and McCollum, each ending on a positive note while keeping Lillard and McCollum in the negative.

Mitchell finished with a record 30 points on 12 of 20 shots from the field, adding five assists, four steals and two rebounds. While he finished with just two points on four shots, Conley was equally dominant with six assists and a +21 rating.

It was a slow start for both teams, with Portland quickly taking a 21-13 lead with just under two minutes left in the first quarter. Utah rallied with an 8-2 run to finish first, helped by three points from Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson.

After the two teams traded buckets early in the second quarter, the Jazz went on a 14-4 streak to take the eight-point lead. After extending it to 10 points following a Gobert dunk with 1:57 left in the half, Portland rallied.

Utah led 53-49 at the break.

In the second half, the Jazz came out on fire, jumping to an 83-61 lead following a Rudy Gay three-pointer with 4:33 left in the third quarter. But again, Portland rallied and reduced the deficit to 10 to move into fourth.

Utah found their rhythm in the final 12 minutes, leading up to 24 points as they pulled away for the win.

“Obviously, I don’t care if I start or not. … I love my role, ”said Ingles. “I think no matter what I’m shooting or defending or whatever, I think my best attribute is getting my teammates involved. I don’t know why you would blitz me because I’m a going first guy. … I can’t think of anything better than passing the ball, especially to Rudy (Gobert) to keep him happy.

Clarkson and Gay finished with 22 and 14 points respectively, leading a strong bench effort in which the Jazz earned 49 points from their reserves. Starting in place of injured Royce O’Neale, Ingles added 14 points and six assists, while Bojan Bogdanovic finished with 13 points and four rebounds.

McCollum finished with 19 points while Lillard added 11, as they combined to shoot 11 for 29 from the field.

Utah has the next three days off before hosting Boston on Friday, Dec. 3, its last game before a four-game road trip.

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