Simons’ career-best 45 points carries Portland past Utah
By MATTHEW COLES
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Anfernee Simons scored a career-high 45 points and blocked a potential 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds left to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 116-111 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.
The Jazz led 111-110 after Kelly Olynyk’s twisting jumper and then had a chance to tie it at 114, but Simons swiped the ball from Jordan Clarkson as he rose for a 3-point attempt from the right angle.
The Trail Blazers had lost seven of their last eight games before winning this thriller as Damian Lillard missed his seventh game with a lower right leg injury.
Portland’s Jerami Grant scored 13 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter as the Jazz swarmed Simons. Jusuf Nurkic had 15 points and 14 rebounds and Trendon Watford finished with a career-high 14 rebounds, too.
The Jazz held Simons to just one field goal attempt in the fourth quarter, but he hit two free throws with 29.2 seconds to play, giving Portland a 112-111 lead. Grant added four free throws in the final 6.4 seconds for the final margin.
Clarkson had 24 points, and Lauri Markkanen added 21 for the Jazz, but committed two turnovers in the final 35.7 seconds. Collin Sexton scored 19 points and Jarred Vanderbilt had a season-high 16 for Utah.
Portland led 107-101 on Grant’s 3-pointer with 4:12 to play, but Sexton scored five quick points in 10-3 run that was highlighted by Markkanen’s block of Simon’s drive in the final minute.
Simons scored 23 points in the first quarter — a season high for Simons, as well as any Blazers player in any quarter. Simons had 22 in the third quarter against Denver on Oct. 24.
By halftime, Simons had 33 points and the Blazers led 69-60.
Trying the fill the offensive gap in Lillard’s absence, Simons has scored more than 30 three times in the last five games and topped his previous season high of 38 points against the New York Knicks on Nov. 25 and his career best of 43 posted last season.
Blazers: Josh Hart was out with a left ankle sprain and Gary Payton is getting close to a return, but was also a scratch, leaving Portland with nine healthy players. … The Blazers didn’t commit their first turnover until 5:31 remained in the second quarter.
Jazz: Utah played its third game in four nights, while it was Portland’s first contest in four nights. … Vanderbilt had made just three 3s in his career before this season, but made four in a row in this game.
Blazers: Visit the Phoenix Suns on Friday.
Jazz: Host the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.
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