The Portland Trail Blazers powered to a 116-111 win over the Utah Jazz thanks to the attacking contributions of Anfernee Simons, who “set the tone” with a career-high 45 points on Saturday night.
Simons also blocked a potential 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds left to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to victory.
“I wanted to be aggressive and set the tone for my teammates,” Simons said. “Early on, let them know that we are in this game and I’m going to do whatever it takes for us to win it.”
The Jazz led 111-110 after Kelly Olynyk’s twisting jumper and then had a chance to tie it at 114, but Simons swiped the ball from Jordan Clarkson as he rose for a 3-point attempt from the right angle.
“I just tried to catch him before he went up. … Kind of a risky play, but I’m glad I got it,” Simons said with a chuckle.
Simons scored 23 points in the first quarter – a season-high for Simons, as well as any Blazers player in any quarter. Simons had 22 in the third quarter against Denver on October 24.
By halftime, Simons had 33 points and the Blazers led 69-60, such was the ferocity of his attacking abilities. In doing so, Simmons becomes the third Trail Blazer in the last decade to score 45 points, joining Lillard and CJ McCollum. But that wasn’t enough for him.
“In the back of my mind, I wanted 50. But there’s going to be plenty of opportunities for that. It’s all right because we got the win,” Simons said.
Fortunately, there were other Blazers stars who also chipped in.
Portland’s Jerami Grant scored 13 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter as the Jazz swarmed Simons. Jusuf Nurkic also had 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Jazz on their way down to earth
The Jazz couldn’t contain Simons, nor Jerami Grant, despite their best efforts.
It wasn’t just the 45 points, but also Grant’s four free throws in the final 6.4 seconds – a factor that Portland coach Chauncey Billups was quick to mention in the post-game media conference.
“Ant got it going early and we just kind of rode him, rode him, rode him” Billups said, “And then obviously Jerami was going”.
His team were able to get some attacking patterns going, primarily through Lauri Markkanen (21) and Jordan Clarkson (24). But the two turnovers they committed in the final 35.7 seconds made their contributions null and void.
“You have to come out in the very beginning and try to set the tone. Doesn’t matter that it’s the second night of a back-to-back. They came out with an aggressiveness and a physicality that we didn’t (have),” Utah coach Will Hardy said.
The Jazz will look to work on their defensive frailties against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday, while the Trail Blazers lock horns with the Indiana Pacers on Sunday evening.