Rookie Burks, dunk champ Evans lift Jazz 96-94
"It definitely has been a challenging year for us," interim coach Kaleb Canales said.
Portland's season started with the retirement of All-Star guard Brandon Roy and another injury to former No. 1 overall draft pick Greg Oden, and was interrupted by several major trades, the firing of coach Nate McMillan and injuries to top players such as LaMarcus Aldridge.
While Portland figures out how to shake off one of the most disappointing seasons in recent history, the Jazz appear headed in the right direction after crumbling down the stretch last year following the abrupt retirement of Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan and trade of superstar point guard Deron Williams.
Ironically, an April 2 meeting in Portland helped Utah turn its season around. The Jazz were down 14 in the first half when Corbin inserted his Big Three lineup — with 6-10 Derrick Favors playing alongside 6-10 center Jefferson and the 6-8 Millsap moving to small forward.
The trio sparked a 19-point turnaround that has Corbin relying on it more and more, and even considering using it to start games.
Favors made only his ninth start of the season Thursday in place of Millsap, but in the first 12 minutes, had eight points, five rebounds, a block, assist and highlight-reel dunk. He would finish with 15 points and five rebounds.
"However you get the win you have to take it," Favors said. "It's (been) an amazing week for us."
In the second quarter, the Blazers used an 11-4 run to tie the score at 27 behind Kurt Thomas and Flynn.
Jazz reserves brought Utah back, with NBA D-League call-up Blake Ahearn and Evans scoring five apiece in the quarter as Utah took a 47-40 lead into the break.
In the fourth, Portland led 88-84 before Utah went on a 10-0 run. Howard tied it at 88 on a 5-foot bank shot with 5:18 remaining, and Evans' high-flying jams putting Utah up 94-88.
Now Utah is headed to the playoffs under a coach not named Sloan for the first time since 1988-89 when Frank Layden was in charge.
Corbin, who kept the team from fracturing when injuries and losses might have torn it apart, couldn't be happier.
Told before the game that the last time a Jazz team finished the season on a lengthy winning streak it advanced to the 1997 NBA finals, he flashed a wide grin and said, "Let's do it. Let's go to the finals."
NOTES: Utah finished the season with a 25-8 mark at home. ... Jazz SG Raja Bell returned after missing 13 games with a left knee injury. He entered with 9:29 left in the first half, mostly to cheers with a few boos. It was only his second game since a blow-up with Corbin that resulted in Bell being sent home from a road trip. He was the only Jazz player who didn't score. ... The Blazers did not play Raymond Felton (Achilles pain), Jamal Crawford (right knee tendinitis), Hasheem Thabeet or Nicolas Batum. ... The Jazz were the only team to sweep the Blazers in a four-game series this season. ... Jazz SF Howard was called for a technical in the third quarter.
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