PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)Juancho Hernangomez had a season-high 22 points and the Utah Jazz secured ,the fifth seed in the Western Conference with an 111-80 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in the regular-season finale on Sunday night.
The Jazz will face the fourth-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the opening round of the playoffs. The Mavericks downed the Spurs 130-120 on Sunday, but star guard Luka Doncic left the game with a left calf strain.
Rudy Gobert added 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Jazz, while top scorer Donovan Mitchell sat out of the game with a non-COVID-19 illness. Utah also was without Bojan Bogdanovic, who was resting a left calf injury.
”I think this season was a lot of ups and downs, but we won 49 games. It’s still a pretty decent season for us, regular season. I thought this year was really a great learning experience for all of us,” Gobert said. ”And I think all those challenges that we faced really made us better and prepare us better for what’s coming next week.”
The Jazz beat Memphis in five games in the opening round of the playoffs last season, then fell to the Clippers.
”With Luka, I’m sure we’ll be spinning our wheels to to figure out different ways to attack and defend, but were excited because it’s the best time of the year, the time that we’ve all had to sacrifice for and we get to play one of the better teams in the league,” Mike Conley said.
Already eliminated from playoff contention, the Blazers ended a turbulent season with an 11-game losing streak. Portland had made the playoffs for the past eight seasons.
Reggie Perry, who signed a 10-day deal with the Blazers on March 30 that was extended through Sunday, had a career-high 20 points. But the Blazers were without Drew Eubanks, one of the bright spots for the team in the midst of a spate of injuries, because of a wrist injury. Damian Lillard, who has been out since January with an abdominal issue that required surgery, watched Portland’s final game from the bench along with fellow injured teammates Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons.
Utah had lost seven of their previous 10 games, and were coming off a 111-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Friday. Early on, the Blazers pulled ahead 19-16 after the opening quarter, but it was short-lived.
The Jazz went up 28-23 on Gobert’s dunk, led 52-40 at the half and stretched the margin to as many as 22 points in the third quarter. They led by as many as 34 down the stretch.
Then Utah quickly pivoted to preparing for the Mavs.
”I think our team has grown a lot and we’ll get a chance to play (in the playoffs), that’s all we can ask for,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. ”Everybody will have their opinions about everything. We’ve just got to go perform and compete and execute. Hopefully good things happen.”
The Blazers used the last game of the season to honor longtime Blazers announcer and ambassador Bill Schonely, who coined the phrase ”Rip City.” Schonely, known affectionately as the Schonz, is retiring at age 92 after more than 50 years with the team.
Schonely was with the Blazers for their inaugural season back in 1970 and was the voice of the team for 28 years. Since then, he has been a team ambassador.
BOUNCE BACK STRONGER
Portland heads into the offseason with hope. A flurry of moves before the trade deadline freed up cap space and got the team under the luxury tax.
”I’m extremely excited that we can kind of build this thing in a different way that it was. We have the ability to do so,” said Blazers coach Chauncey Billups, who wrapped up his first season as coach.
Jazz: Utah won all four of the games against the Blazers this season. … Conley finished with 14 points.
Trail Blazers: Lillard addressed the crowd before the game: ”This year a lot of things came up that we didn’t expect. A lot of hard times. But you guys continue to show up. Continue to show us love. Continue to be the fans that I’ve always known. And I just need y’all to know one thing: This will not continue. Next year we’re gonna come back better than we’ve been. ”
Jazz: Finish in fifth in the West, will face Dallas. The schedule was not immediately released.
Blazers: Head into the offseason.
More AP NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports