SALT LAKE CITY -- Damian Lillard came and saw.
But the Utah Jazz conquered.
Lillard, Weber State's beloved former star point guard, was treated with kindness and respect Friday night when his Portland Trail Blazers visited EnergySolutions Arena. Had he or his teammates made a few more shots down the stretch he might not have felt as much love.
Fortunately for the Jazz, Lillard got his points -- a game-high 26 of them -- but Utah came away with an 86-77 victory in the first of a back-to-back series with the Blazers.
The same two teams will meet tonight in Portland, Ore.
"It just felt like a welcome home," Lillard said. "People I have been around for the last four years, coming to support me even though all of them are probably longtime Jazz fans - for them to cheer that loud when I came out, it meant a lot."
Lillard, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft and winner of three straight Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors, did indeed receive a warm welcome when he was introduced with Portland's starting lineup. And when he came up with a handful of athletic plays, they cheered those, too. However, the loudest cheers were saved for the end, when the final buzzer sounded and the Jazz had come away with their second straight win and seventh in nine tries.
"I think we pretty much controlled the whole game," center Al Jefferson said. "They made a little run, we knew before long they were going to do that. I think we responded well."
The Jazz (26-21) led by as many as 17 points in the second quarter but the Blazers (23-23) came firing back with a third-quarter run that saw Lillard score 14 of their 25 points.
He finished the game with 26 points on 10-for-23 shooting. He also had three rebounds, five assists and a blocked shot. He also was charged with four turnovers.
Thanks in great part to the spark Lillard provided, the Blazers rallied to cut Utah's lead to five points in the four minutes.
When he nailed a 3-pointer with 3:55 left to make the score 80-75, the cheering was mixed with a few audible groans.
Seconds later Utah's Paul Millsap blocked Nicolas Batum's shot near the basket and it effectively silenced Portland's challenge.
"He made some runs there, he's an explosive scorer for those guys," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said of Lillard. "He attacked us down the lane in the pick-and-roll situation and we've got to do a better job of staying between him and the basket."
Lillard scored six of his 26 in the fourth quarter but it wasn't enough to get the Blazers a win, partly because they couldn't overcome a poor shooting effort (14-for-43) in the first half.
The Jazz took a 51-36 lead into halftime and stood up to Portland's challenges in the second half, despite shooting only 29 percent from the field after halftime.
Jefferson scored six of his 21 in the fourth quarter. Teammate Paul Millsap added 15 points for the game and guard Randy Foye added 14.
Already playing without starting point guard Mo Williams (thumb surgery) and top reserve Gordon Hayward (shoulder sprain) the Jazz got bad news in the second half Friday when backup point guard Earl Watson suffered a lower leg injury and did not return.
Instead of joining his teammates for a flight to Portland on Friday, Watson stayed back for an MRI scheduled for this morning.
Team officials said there are plans for Watson to meet the team in Portland today, pending the results of the MRI.
If Watson is unable to play it would put the Jazz down three players, two of them point guards.
They have Jamaal Tinsley, Foye and second-year man Alec Burks to help out but even so they'll be shorthanded at the point guard position, which should be a break for Lillard and his teammates.