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Jefferson leads Jazz past Blazers 86-77

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 1, 2013 at 11:47 pm •  Published: February 1, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — When all else fails, the Utah Jazz just clear the way for Al Jefferson.

Jefferson had 21 points, including two one-handed shots in the lane, to help the Jazz beat Portland 86-77 on Friday night.

"You get him the ball in the post one-on-one against anybody in this league and we feel good about our chances," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said.

Paul Millsap added 15 points for the Jazz, who have won eight of their last nine home games.

"We pretty much controlled the whole game," said Jefferson, who had 10 rebounds for his 22nd double-double of the season. "They made a little run and we knew before long they were going to do that."

That little run put a scare into the Jazz. LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds, made a putback to cap nine consecutive points by the Blazers and draw Portland within six at 78-72 with 5:28 remaining.

Alec Burks finally snapped the string of seven straight missed shots by Utah with a tip-in, but Damian Lilliard hit a 3-pointer make it 80-75 with 3:57 to play.

"Portland is an explosive team," Corbin said. "They are capable of scoring a lot of points in a short period of time."

But that's all the Blazers could muster down the stretch. Though the Jazz struggled to score, the Blazers came up empty on six straight possessions with two turnovers and four missed shots.

"We fought so hard to get back that I think we ran out of gas when it was time to turn it up again," said Lilliard, who played collegiately at Weber State in nearby Ogden and finished with 26 points.

The Blazers held the Jazz without a point for a span of 5:32 in the middle of the fourth quarter, but the Jazz made the shots down the stretch.

Utah finally clinched it on two free throws by Randy Foye and Jefferson's back-to-back push shots in the lane.

"My jumpshot wasn't falling, so I just kept trying to attack inside," Jefferson said. "They were double-teaming me from the cutting guy and then we finally made an adjustment as far as 'don't cut.' So I had a chance to get going."

The Jazz center finally found the net to counter a 5-of-19 Jazz performance in the fourth quarter and came away with the win.

"What's encouraging is now Al is making passes to his teammates, so it's making it more difficult for teams to lock in on him," Corbin said pointing out that the Blazers did not double-team Jefferson on the final minutes.

Wes Matthews severely rolled his right ankle on a drive to the hoop in the third quarter and had to be helped off the court. He did not return. Locker room X-rays were negative, but it was not immediately known if he will miss any games.

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