Salt Lake City — Al Jefferson posted 21 points and 10 rebounds to pace the Utah Jazz to an 86-77 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Paul Millsap contributed 15 points, Randy Foye 14 and DeMarre Carroll 13 for Utah, which raced out to a big first-half lead and won for the seventh time in its last nine contests.
These team will meet again Saturday in Portland.
“We know they’re going to come out with a lot of energy and they’re going to play hard to try and get a win on their home court,” Jazz forward Derrick Favors said about Saturday’s game. “We have got to come out with the same mentality.”
Rookie Damian Lillard, who played college ball at Weber State, scored 26 for Portland. LaMarcus Aldridge ended with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews was helped off the court in the third quarter with a severely sprained right ankle. Matthews isn’t expected to play in the rematch Saturday night in Portland.
Matthews was driving to the basket when he slipped and turned his ankle before tumbling to the court with 4:13 left in the period. He immediately grabbed for his ankle and was later assisted off the court by teammates J.J. Hickson and Jared Jeffries.
Matthews was later taken to the Utah locker room via wheelchair for x-rays, which turned up negative.
Foye’s 1-of-2 performance at the foul line capped 11 straight points for the Jazz to take them to a 25-17 lead with under a minute left in the first quarter.
Utah dominated the second quarter from the aspect of its shooting. The Jazz went 12-of-17 from the floor in the period and surged to a 51-36 halftime lead.
Carroll’s layup moved the hosts to a 38-23 cushion midway through the period, and the lead reached as high as 17.
The double-digit margin remained throughout the third quarter with a 73-61 difference going to the fourth.
Aldridge’s successful bank shot finished a 9-0 run to cut the margin to 78-72 with 5:28 left, and then Lillard buried a 3-pointer for an 80-75 contest with 3:57 to go.
Lillard had a chance to bring the Blazers closer, but another 3-point try was off the mark. Utah scored the next six points to seal the outcome. The Jazz held the Blazers without a point from the 3:57 mark until Will Barton’s bucket with 16 seconds left.
“We fought so hard to get back I think we ran out of gas,” said Lillard. “It was more of us putting ourselves in that position, so we have to do a better job of playing four quarters.”
Blazers guard Ronnie Price turned his right ankle late in the fourth quarter after being bumped into by Foye … Utah guard Earl Watson departed midway through the fourth quarter with right leg soreness … The Jazz, who are 17-5 at home this season, swept all four games with Portland last season.