The doubts were roiling around the Utah Jazz amid their three-game losing streak. Was the preseason perception of a 25-win team angling for #TankNote right all along?
The gutsy win didn't come without a cost, unfortunately, as starting point guard Mike Conley went down with a knee injury in the second half and did not return. After the game, Jazz head coach Will Hardy provided an update on Conley's injury, though the full analysis of the veteran's prognosis is up in the air.
“At the moment, we are awaiting the results on some further imaging," Hardy said of Conley's injury. "But he’s in good spirits, walking around. Very hopeful.”
Conley played just over nine minutes before he seemingly hyper-extended his leg. Although he was scoreless (he only took one shot), he still fed three assists to his teammates.
Fortunately, Talen Horton-Tucker answered the bell in Conley's absence with gusto, not only playing great defense on Portland All-Star Damian Lillard (before Lillard exited with an injury, too), but also chipping in 12 points, four assists, and five rebounds.
"Somebody, in particular, I think that really stepped up tonight was Talen," Hardy said in his post-game statement before he took any questions. "Mike going down, you never want to see that, leaving the game. I thought Talen, his defense, first, was very good on Damian Lillard. Did a great job setting the tone for us and really settled us down and ran the team well during his minutes. So very happy for Talen. He works really hard, so for him to step up in that moment—not easy to do—and he delivered for us.”
The Jazz received yet another Herculean contribution from Malik Beasley, who led all Utah scorers with 29 points off the bench, going 10-of-18 (55.6%) from the field and knocking down 6-of-14 three-pointers. Jordan Clarkson finished with 28 points, while Lauri Markkanen chipped in 23.
"I thought this game was very representative of our team this year," Hardy said. "In the second half, the Blazers—as all good NBA teams do—they made their run. Their home crowd got into it and they put a lot of pressure on us and our guys responded. We had a lot of big plays made down the stretch by a lot of people. I thought Jordan, down the stretch of the game, made some really, really big plays. I thought Lauri was outstanding tonight. He drew a lot attention. He did a very good job playing physically through a lot of contact, made some good decisions for us. And then, obviously, ‘Beas’ off the bench was huge, scoring 29 points. A lot of big shots. Those free throws at the end were big."
It was a complete, complementary win for the Jazz on the road against one of the Conference's best teams. The Jazz can sleep well tonight knowing that first place in the Conference has been re-taken and gear up for Monday night's throw-down in Los Angeles.