While you may not have been able to see the game, unless you were there in person, you could get a feel for how the new Jazz did in their first pre-season game against the Blazers.
There was a stark contrast between quarters as the starters played the first and third quarters while Sloan did a line change for the second and fourth quarters to the backups.
The Jazz dominated the first quarter as they built a 27-9 lead with just two minutes to go in the first quarter. Enter the second team and that lead disappeared. The Blazers were able to get back into it with a barrage of threes and a bunch of Jazz turnovers.
The third and forth quarters turned out the same as the starters built a 13-point lead near the end of the third quarter. The second team was able to hold on for the win with Earl Watson nailing the clinching free-throws.
This pre-season win will count as much as my wins in NBA 2K in the overall standings but it's certainly better to get a win and kick things off on the right foot.
So what did we learn from game 1? The first team played very well together with AK and Millsap teaming up to form a new dynamic duo. From listening to the game, and seeing some highlights, they're going to be very potent on the floor together. In fact, when they were on the court last season, they were part of some of our best 5-man unitswhen you look at the +/-. They seemed to feed off each other tonight. AK's per 36 (he had 18 minutes) would have put him at 16 points, 6 steals, 2 blocks, 4 assists, and 6 rebounds. He wasn't shooting the ball well tonight but was altering shots, thieving, and finishing. Millsap was effective with 14 & 8 in his 22 minutes and had 3 thefts of his own. This will be a potent starting team.
We'll see how AK and Millsap do against some of the longer teams in the NBA. Tonight the Blazers were without Prizbilla and Oden. Pendergraph went down in a heap after he tried to defend Fesenko. From the news since, and from the pics released, it doesn't look good. They're already thin up front with injuries; this will be another blow to their team.
In Deron's 24 minutes he had an efficient 15 points on 5 shots. He went to the line 12 times while making 9 of those. Add on 6 boards, 5 assists, and 3 steals, and that's a great first pre-season game.
Some other thoughts on the other players...
Someone needs to tell Wesley that he's not getting paid piece rate. Someone also needs to tell his coaches that 38 minutes in a pre-season game is madness. I know he wants to be out there all the time, and who am I to question an NBA coach, it just seemed excessive.
He hoisted 15 shots and got to the line 10 times. His shooting was a bit off and seemed rushed in some places. He's playing in a different offense so maybe the shots aren't all that much.
I don't think he's trying to live up to his contract this season; I think it was just more of trying to make a statement against his old team and in his old stomping grounds.
It was nice to hear him get cheers when he checked in. I didn't expect anything else. However, now that that's over, please feel free to openly root against him.
"Fesenko, Fesenko, Fesenko." It sounded like he was ready to play the basketball. He had a couple of moments where he was playing possessed and another where the rim was credited with as many blocks as he was. If he's going to earn some more PT, now's the time to do it with Memo out and Elson apparently having some hamstring pain. I don't think he did anything tonight to warrant attention.
Al seems to be taking a bit longer to get into the swing of things. He's still getting used to the high altitude and the Jazz are helping him expand those lungs. He got just 4 shots off in 26 minutes for 6 points.
He didn't have the best offensive night but did hold Brandon Roy to 1-6 shooting.
It killed me not to see his plays. He had several dunks that didn't make the highlights. More impressive than his 9 points was his 7 rebounds, one being where he went up and got one over Aldridge. The guy can leap. Not only that, he seems to know how to use that ability to make plays. I can't wait to see him in action.
He didn't seem to be a factor either way. He nailed a couple of shots and made all of his free throws, but he didn't do anything one way or the other that made you think he played well or played bad.
It was advantage Gaines tonight as each of the backup PG hopefuls got 12 minutes. Gaines did a little more with the time he was given. Price was part of that group that gave up the huge lead in the second quarter. Watson's two points were the final free throws to close out the game.
You have to be impressed by the first team. Despite Al still picking things up, they were efficient in their shots. Deron, AK, and Millsap were the cogs early. They were able to build that lead from some solid D on Portland. They held the Blazers to 15 & 14 points in the first and third quarters respectively. We obviously want to see that continue.
The Jazz will get another chance to take it to the Blazers on Monday. We'll see how much the lineups and game plan change, if any. The team still has a long ways to go but this is a good start.
It's great to be back into the swing of things though. I obviously need the pre-season to get back into writing these things as this has taken way too long.