SALT LAKE CITY — Jeremy Evans had a good time.
The skinny Utah Jazz forward with long legs and a freaky ability to jump threw down a number of highlight reel dunks in Thursday’s 96-94 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. He enjoyed it, his teammates enjoyed it and the crowd did, too.
Because the Jazz already have a playoff spot clinched, they didn’t need to win the game. Consequentially, coach Tyrone Corbin was able to rest his starters and play reserves like Evans, who recorded 13 points, 10 assists and three blocked shots.
“I always want to go in and have fun,” he said. “That’s why you always say if you have a job you (should) love doing it. I feel like when I’m out there playing ball that’s what I love doing.”
Evans added excitement to an otherwise meaningless game, throwing down a couple of rim-rockers.
Afterward, he especially enjoyed timing his jumps to rebound a missed shot and following it up with a put-back dunk.
When teammate Josh Howard missed a jumpshot with 4:27 left in the fourth, Evans swooped in and pounded the put-back with his right hand. The crowd and the Utah bench went crazy afterward.
“Jeremy had some highlight reels that were pretty cool to watch,” teammate Gordon Hayward said. “He showed why he’s the (NBA All-Star) slam dunk champ.”
Jazz 96, Blazers 94
• BEST PLAY: Evans had a few spectacular dunks, but perhaps the best dunk of the night went to Josh Howard, whose follow up of Derrick Favors’ miss was as quick as a lightning strike. He threw it down on Portland’s Luke Babbitt at the 5:44 mark of the third quarter.
• BEST LINE: Evans had 13 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots for the Jazz.
• KEY STAT: The Jazz imposed their size on the Blazers and outrebounded them 48-36. Evans and Enes Kanter had 10 rebounds apiece.
• SIDELINE MOMENT: Before the game, Kanter, a rookie, was appointed to thank fans for their support this season. A diehard wrestling fan, Kanter hammed it up for the crowd, even throwing down the microphone and posing after this speech. His teammates loved it.
• HISTORY LESSON: Thursday marked the 27th anniversary of the Jazz playoff game in which 7-4 center Mark Eaton blocked a postseason-record 10 shots in a 96-94 loss to Houston. The record would later be matched by Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon in 1990.
• INJURY REPORT: Paul Millsap was not on the Jazz’s injury list, but he missed the game with some general soreness. He is expected to be ready for Sunday’s playoff game. … No C.J. Miles (calf strain) or Earl Watson (knee surgery) for the Jazz. Howard (knee) and Raja Bell (knee) saw playing time in order to prepare for the upcoming playoffs. … The Blazers went without LaMarcus Aldridge (hip), Elliot Williams (shoulder) and Shawne Williams (foot).
• ETC.: The Blazers had a chance to win the game with a shot at the buzzer, but former Jazzman Wesley Matthews missed a straightaway 3-point shot. His teammates and he protested, claiming he was fouled by Utah’s Blake Ahearn, but no call was made. Replays showed Ahearn may have pushed him, but the refs were having none of the arguments. … After the game, Jazz players threw autographed balls into the stands. Teammates Gordon Hayward and Devin Harris had a competition to see who could throw one into the upper deck. Meanwhile, team general manager Kevin O’Connor was walking around to make sure none of his players hurt themselves. … The Jazz finished the regular season 36-30 and on a five-game winning streak. … Kanter played a career-high 33 minutes. … Rookie Alec Burks scored a career-high 18 points.
• UP NEXT: The Jazz will start the playoffs against the No. 1 seeded Spurs Sunday morning in San Antonio.