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Anfernee Simons had a big first half while Jerami Grant and the Portland defense helped close out Utah in the second half.

PMG PHOTO: DIEGO G. DIAZ - Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons shoots a 3-pointer against the Phoenix Suns on Oct. 21, 2022, at the Moda Center.The Portland Trail Blazers (12-11) sneaked out of Salt Lake City Saturday, Dec. 3, with a 116-111 win over the Utah Jazz behind a career-high 45 points from Anfernee Simons and some late defensive clamps.

Simons came out on fire, putting up 23 points in the first quarter, a new personal best for points scored in any quarter. He went 5 for 7 from the 3-point line and 8 for 10 from the field in the frame.

Behind Simons, Portland posted 40 points in the first and kept that lead throughout the second to go into the break up 69-60.

Simons poured in 10 more points to put up 33 at the halfway point. Meanwhile, the scoring was spread out through the rest of the team with 22 points in the paint. Those 33 points set a franchise record for most points scored in the first half, three behind the all-time record for a by Lillard scoring 36.

What really helped the Blazers the most was ball security. They didn't turn the ball over once in the first half, and did only three times in the second with the first not coming until halfway through the second.

Simons kept it rolling in the third quarter, scoring 10 more points to leave at a tie for his career-high of 43 points. However, the Jazz made their run out of the break by outscoring the Blazers 30-23 in the frame.

Corner 3-pointers continue to be the Blazers' downfall as plenty of those looks came open for Utah. The Jazz didn't hit as many as they'd like, giving Portland a chance to stay in the game despite some lackluster coverage.

Grant started to put in some work as the game started to wind down, using some fancy footwork to either get a bucket or get to the line. Portland finished shooting 24 for 31 from the charity stripe.

Grant had 13 in the fourth to finish with 33 points, and Simons got couple free throws late to get to 45 points on the night, setting his new career high.

The game was still in question, though, as the Simons free throws put Portland up 112-111 with 29.2 seconds to go.

Utah sent the inbounds pass to Lauri Markkanen, but lost the ball out of bounds running into Jusuf Nurkic, who stood his ground and forced the Jazz forward toward the baseline.

Grant forced a foul and hit both of his free throws to go up 114-111 with six seconds to go. Jordan Clarkson received the next inbounds pass, but Simons knocked the ball out of his hands and it went out of bounds off the Jazz to seal the deal.

Portland has to hurry home for another back-to-back set to tip at 6 p.m. Sunday against Indiana in the Moda Center.

Standout stats

Fire Ant: Simons was hot from the start, scoring 33 first half points to set a Blazers record for most points scored in the first half. He hit 7 of 12 3-pointers, but didn't shoot a single deep ball in the second half. He didn't need to as Grant stepped up his scoring, but one has to wonder what Simons could have done if he'd kept shooting. Still, a career-high 45 points is a pretty good night as the 23-year-old guard continues to show how dangerous he can be.

Ball security: Portland took care of the ball despite plenty of players out due to injury and some bench guys getting into the mix, at least in the first half. The Blazers had only three turnovers at halftime, but finished the game with 13 as 10 more came in the second half, six from Simons. The Blazers have talked about playing well in stretches and not so much in other spots, the second half against Utah was one of the latter.

Second half at the line: Portland went to the line 21 times in the second half while Utah took only five penalty shots. With Simons not shooting the ball, the offense had to come from elsewhere, so the Blazers went down low. That was seen in the first half as well, just not as many calls were made for Portland. The Blazers are still one of the league's best at getting to the line, and that's a trend they'd like to continue.

Game grade: B

The second half was sloppy once more with 10 turnovers and Simons not being as aggressive as he should be when he had 33 points at halftime. But Grant helped smooth that over on offense while the Blazers forced seven turnovers on the Jazz. Guys like Trendon Watford (9 points, 14 rebounds), Greg Brown III and Jabari Walker made some important plays when needed off the bench to help Portland stay in the game long enough for the starters to return. The story continues to be cleaning up the turnovers, but when the game came down to it, Portland forced three consecutive Jazz mistakes to close the game. That's the kind of clamps the Blazers need throughout a game, but they'll take it on a night when they were down so many players.

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