NBA Preseason Game 2:
The Utah Jazz (1-0) face off against the Portland Trail Blazers (0-1), in the back end of their preseason starting home and home series. In the first game (preview, thread, recap) the Jazz won 92-73 in what most of us would call a sight for sore eyes performance. Portland started LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum , and Robin Lopez, they all played nearly half the game -- and they still lost. The surprising thing here is that Portland is supposed to challenge for home court in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs this season . . . and . . . well . . . our team is supposed to win less than 30 games by some people's counts. The first game of the preseason doesn't determine how the season goes, but if the quality of play continues most Jazz fans will be overjoyed with a defensive focus that plays unselfishly on offense.
The last game was both the last game for both teams and the last game these two teams played. In it Portland was led by Will Barton (12 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals) and Chris Kaman (10 points, 7 rebounds) -- both off the bench. As a team, the Blazers shot only 34.6 fg%, and a measly 3-19 from downtown (15.8 3pt%). The Jazz also forced them into 22 turn overs, and send them to the line only 20 times. Of course, 16 different players played for them in the game, and it's pretty clear that some guys are more ready to play in the NBA than others. For the Jazz five players scored 10 points or more (Alec Burks, Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, and Derrick Favors). Favors had a double double, Rudy Gobert almost matched that, but his 3/8 shooting prevented him from reaching 10 points -- he had only eight.As a team the Jazz went to the line 30 times (but shot only 56.7 ft% from there), but made up for it by going 7/14 from outside and shooting 44.2 fg% overall. But let's be real, with both teams clanking so many shots the game was won on the glass. And Utah had a whopping 62 rebounds in that game. Coach Quin Snyder only played 13 guys, and stuck with a more normative rotation. The starters played more than half the game, for example.
Players to Watch:
I really expect Damian Lillard to rebound back from his first game (where he finished with 9 points off of 11 shots, and 0 assists), and try to take advantage of the relative inexperience of Trey Burke and Dante Exum. I know I would, if I was a highly regarded point guard. That's going to be the match-up I would watch. Steve Blake and C.J. McCollum didn't show up in game one either. As always, this series should be dominated by point guards. It's been this way since the days of John Stockton and Terry Porter. Whomever had the better game almost invariably won the game.
Portland, who expect to be playing till at least May, don't need to gather preseason wins right now. They don't need to but I am sure getting them will be expected for such a talented and well put together club. Playing at home, and with the added bonus of it being difficult to beat a team twice in a row in a home and home series, I would expect this game to not be resolved like a 20 point blowout for the Jazz. Furthermore, it's likely that Portland's core players will play more than 20 minutes this time around.
For our guys it's important to show that the first game wasn't a fluke. Last preseason we saw a fluke when they gave the Golden State Warriors the business. Just play good defense again, and share the ball. The Jazz don't need to win a lot this season for this season to be a success. Portland has the higher expectations. Utah just needs to show improvement from month to month. Tonight I wouldn't be surprised to see our team play well during stretches, but still show flaws.