5 Takeaways from the Opening Night Loss

5 Takeaways from the Opening Night Loss

The Jazz battled in a close match-up with the Blazers in Portland Tuesday night. Despite 2nd half heroics from Joe Johnson and Rodney Hood, they could not overcome a lights-out performance from Damian Lillard. We are now just one game into the regular season, but there are several things that stood out to me during Tuesday night’s bout. Here are five of them:

Joe Johnson is just what the Jazz needed

In the absence of Gordon Hayward, Joe Johnson made his debut for the Jazz in the starting lineup. Down 8 at halftime, the Jazz made some adjustments and came out in the third quarter with an increased effort to get Johnson the ball. He responded by scoring 27 of his team-high 29 points in the second half, bringing the Jazz back into the game and giving them a chance to win. Every time Johnson got the ball on the wing or in the post, he had a certain confidence to him, knowing that he was going to score. This is exactly what the Jazz neededed. Someone to come off the bench and lead the second unit, providing consistent and experienced minutes for coach Quin Snyder. Once Hayward returns from his injury, Johnson will provide an instant offensive option off the bench and will give the Jazz the relieving spark of scoring that they have lacked for several years.

Rodney Hood is tapping into his potential

Rodney Hood’s performance last night was one of the best of his professional career. To the casual NBA or Jazz fan, last night was a coming out party for a rising star. To anyone that has paid close attention to Hood’s game and how much he has improved over the last 2 years, you were not surprised by what he did last night. Hood scored 26 on 53% shooting, including 3–7 from three. He was scoring with ease and graced SportsCenter and vines everywhere with his posterizing throw-down on Evan Turner. It is easy to forget about Rodney’s explosiveness and athleticism because he is such a gifted shooter. Rodney Hood is going to do big things this season for the Utah Jazz.

The defense is not the same without Derrick Favors

Rudy Gobert gets much of the attention and credit to leading a stifling Jazz defense, and rightfully so. But without Favors in the lineup last night the Jazz struggled covering the pick-and-roll. Favors adds a completely different feature to the Jazz defense with his versatility and length. Damian Lillard scored several buckets at the rim with Gobert on his back. Give some credit to Lillard, who is just a phenomenal scorer, but having Favors in that game last night would have changed things drastically.

George Hill is going to be a great Jazz man

For however long he is here, George Hill will be a great Jazz player. Hill was impressive in his debut with 19 points and 6 assists. He played great defense on Lillard, which goes unnoticed if you were to look at the box score and Lillard’s stats. Hill seems like he should fit into Snyder’s scheme perfectly and provide solid production to the starting lineup. He logged 38 minutes which was second only to Rudy Gobert who played a beastly 40 minutes. Hill is going to be the tough-nosed, consistent point guard that the Jazz need to succeed this season, and more to come if they can negotiate an extension after this year.

Dante Exum’s mintues

Dante Exum came off the bench for the Jazz against the Blazers, which was no surprise. What was a surprise however, was that he only logged 8 minutes. Shelvin mack entered the game before Exum did on Tuesday and played 14 minutes, which raises some questions about Snyder’s plans with Exum. This could have something to do with George Hill’s performance early in the game when he was scoring with ease. When Dante was in the game, he looked good and scored 5 points on 4 shots, despite his -18 +/- number.

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