Zach Randolph scored 23 points and the Blazers led by as many as 24 in a 91-70 win over the Jazz—a victory that was tainted when a scuffle broke out with about five minutes left.
The conflict erupted when Shareef Abdur-Rahim stole the ball from Raja Bell and charged down the court. Bell, in pursuit, appeared to try to pull Abdur-Rahim to the ground, before the Blazers’ Ruben Patterson jumped into the fray and knocked Bell to the court. Other players, most notably Randolph, also moved in.
After players from both sides were separated, Abdur-Rahim and Patterson were charged with technical fouls. Bell was given a type of flagrant foul that merits an automatic ejection.
Patterson admitted bringing Bell down after he “clotheslined” Abdur-Rahim.
“I got tired of it,” Patterson said.
“From what I saw, Raja fouled Rahim hard, which you have to do in an open-court situation, and three guys went after him. Zach, Patterson and Rahim took a shot at him,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “In that situation, the refs have a tough decision to make on what to do.”
With their postseason hopes dwindling on a four-game losing streak, the Blazers finally put together a solid offensive effort despite the late-breaking drama.
“Everybody came out on the same page, playing the same game,” Randolph said. “We came out with a purpose tonight.”
The Blazers have been to the playoffs for the past 21 seasons, the longest active steak in the NBA, but are behind both the Jazz and Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
Bell led the Jazz with 21 points. Andrei Kirilenko finished just 2-for-19 from the floor and had 10 points.
The Blazers’ last two losses came against some familiar faces: Bonzi Wells and the Memphis Grizzlies, and Rasheed Wallace and the Detroit Pistons. Portland traded away both Wells and Wallace earlier in the season as part of the team’s efforts to clean up its image.
The two midweek games were so hyped that Utah’s visit seemed something of a letdown. But the Blazers treated it otherwise.
“This is a really nice win for us after those two defeats by Memphis and Detroit,” Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks said. “Considering that Utah is one of the teams we are trying to catch for the playoffs, this was a real important win—perhaps a must win.”
Kirilenko was 1-of-11 from the floor in the first half for the Jazz, who trailed 45-37 at the half.
“He had a bad night,” said Miles, who was on Kirilenko most of the game. “It is easier when his jumper is not falling.”
The Jazz narrowed it to 47-45 on Bell’s jumper, but the Blazers responded with a 10-2 run to make 57-47.
The Jazz slipped two games behind the Nuggets after Friday night’s 96-88 home loss to Indiana, which snapped a four-game winning streak.
The Blazers launched a Randolph for Most Improved Player campaign Saturday, touting the forward’s many accomplishments in his third season—most notably, he is one of just five players in the NBA to average in double figures for both points and rebounds. … Utah’s Gordan Giricek was not with the team because his wife Natasha, gave birth to their daughter, named Lara, in Floridaon Friday. Giricek is expected to rejoin the team Monday against the Lakers.