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Trail Blazers 103, Jazz 102

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PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers got their starting center, and some of their old groove, back Tuesday night at Moda Center.

Robin Lopez returned to the middle for Portland, after having missed 23 games with a broken right hand, and he had 11 points and six rebounds in 25 minutes to help the Blazers defeat the Utah Jazz 103-102.

The Blazers never were able to pull away, but they improved to 33-16 and snapped a three-game losing streak that had come last week on the road.

Utah fell to 17-31, unable to build on its victory against Golden State on Friday.

Forward LaMarcus Aldridge and guards Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews combined for 68 points. Aldridge had 20, going 8-for-16 from the field. Lillard had 11 of his 25 points in the third quarter, when Aldridge was 0-for-4 and scoreless. Matthews came on strong, scoring 17 of his 21 points in the second half and sinking back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 4 1/2 minutes to help Portland hold off the Jazz.

Lopez suffered a third-quarter cut over his left eye. But he came back with a bandage and played most of the final six minutes, and the Blazers raised their season record to 20-6 with him in action.

Forwards Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors paced Utah with 27 and 20 points, respectively.

Lopez’s screen paved the way for Lillard to make an easy drive for a basket and a 101-96 lead with 1:09 to go. And Lopez helped Portland win a key offensive rebound with 41 seconds left.

Utah guard Joe Ingles drilled a long 3 with 9.9 seconds left, cutting the Jazz deficit to 101-99.

Utah put Aldridge on the line with 8.8 seconds remaining, and he made a pair of foul shots.

The Jazz missed a 3, got the rebound, and Trey Burke hit a 3 with 0.9 seconds left.

Utah fouled Lillard, who missed two free throws — the second intentionally — and time ran out on the rebound.

Lopez rolled down the lane for a dunk one minute into the game and went 3-for-3 for six points in his first stint, a 6:12 run in which the Blazers took a 14-12 lead.

Portland shot 55 percent from the field to lead 27-23 after one quarter. Aldridge was 6 of 7 for 14 points.

The Blazers built their lead to seven points in the second quarter before some slippage allowed the Jazz to forge 42-42 and 44-44 ties and then grab a 47-44 lead at the half.

Aldridge had 16 points in the first half, but he was the only Blazer in double figures, whereas the Jazz had three players with 10 points or more through two quarters: Hayward (12), Favors (11) and Burke (10).

Portland regained some momentum after the break, however, with more aggressive play that generated six turnovers and led to 9 of 14 free throws in the third quarter. The Blazers needed those, as they merely gave them a 72-70 edge going into the fourth period.

NOTES: The buzz among Portland fans before the game was the return of C Robin Lopez. The 7-footer hadn’t played since Dec. 15, when he broke his right hand hitting San Antonio’s Boris Diaw while going for a rebound. Without him, the Blazers went 13-10 and apparently weren’t getting better, as they were 2-8 in their previous 10 games and just completed an 0-3 Eastern Conference road swing. “We missed him,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. Lopez had only one full (contact included) practice going into the Utah game. Stotts said Lopez’s return will help the Blazers offense as well as their defense, because “his rebounding and screens are a big part of what we do.” … Utah coach Quin Snyder said he expected “a really difficult game” because the Blazers were back home and welcoming back Lopez. “His value to their team is tremendous,” Snyder said. “He really anchors their defense, and with him they can play bigger and longer. He gives them a different dimension, kind of a power game.”

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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