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The 3-0 Preseason Utah Jazz take on the Portland Trail Blazers

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Dante Exum and Rudy Gobert return to the lineup in tonight’s preseason clash of division rivals.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Utah Jazz were in Portland to face the Trail Blazers, they suffered a loss that sent them from potentially being the 3 seed in the NBA Playoffs to the 5th. That serendipitous one game playoff that also coincided—as luck would have it—with the last game made Utah an underdog to the now home court advantaged Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Trail Blazers, on the the other hand, would host the New Orleans Pelicans. The Blazers might have done the Jazz a solid as playoff Rondo, Jrue Holiday, and Anthony Davis of the Pelicans swept the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1st round. Utah on the other hand shocked the Thunder in 6 games but would end up losing at the hands of the Houston Rockets.

While tonight’s game doesn’t have as much on the line as Utah’s last run in with Portland—it actually has LITERALLY nothing on the line—that Rose Garden Moda Center will most likely conjure up some not so sentimental memories of early April. Tonight will most likely serve as both teams’ dress rehearsal for the regular season. Both teams have three preseason games in the books and will be looking at getting a good extended look at rotations and planned rest during tonight’s game.

In Utah’s last game they struggled in the 1st half against the Adelaide 36ers of the NBL. It didn’t help that Utah was without Center of Unusual Size Rudy Gobert as he was out with planned rest. Utah trailed after the 1st quarter and did not regain the lead until late in the 2nd. That resurgence was due to Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio pulling the Jazz offense out of the proverbial ditch.

In tonight’s game Utah will be hoping to get a clearer idea of their backup guards/wings minute distribution and getting a clear forerunner in the stretch four competition between Thabo Sefolosha and Jae Crowder, though the former won’t be playing. The coaching staff has said they will be holding Thabo out tonight due to planned rest. Jae Crowder is going to get minutes tonight, let’s see if he can capitalize on them.


Game Info

When: 7:00MT • Sunday October 7th, 2018

Where: Moda Center · Portland, Oregon

TV: AT&T Sportsnet RM, NBA League Pass

Radio: 1280 AM/97.5 FM The Zone

Injuries:

Utah Jazz:

Thabo Sefolosha — Rest — OUT

Raul Neto — Right Hamstring — OUT

Isaac Haas — Right Knee — OUT

Portland Trail Blazers:

Moe Harkless — Rest — Probable

Evan Turner — Left Shoulder — Questionable


What to watch for

The bench rotation

Grayson Allen and Alec Burks have played to the best of their potential this preseason ... that is as long as the team on the other side of the ball is from the NBL. Those two have been quite masterful. Against Toronto’s bench mob—arguably the best bench in the NBA—they struggled. Many assume that Dante Exum and Royce O’Neale can be penciled in as the first players of the bench when it comes to relieving a guard or wing due to Exum’s contract and O’Neale’s postseason play, but Allen and Burks have thrown a wrench into that expectation.

The Backcourt of Irrational Confidence—Burks and Allen—has averaged a combined 26.4 ppg during the preseason on 47% shooting from long range. For a Utah Jazz team that at times can be starved for three point shooting outside of Joe Ingles, this is definitely something that could be tempting for Quin Snyder. But this comes with a giant asterisk. Allen and Burks have not showed out against real NBA competition. If they do that to close out the preseason against the Trail Blazers and Kings, that’s going to cause some consternation for Quin Snyder and the rest of the coaching staff as the decide who’s getting minutes to start the year.

Jae Crowder, where are you?

While the guard competition has been heating up, the backup big competition is as cold as ice. Both Thabo and Crowder have been stuck in the weeds. Crowder, who was part of the Jazz’s most feared lineup that led the league in Net Rating, has shot 33% from the field and only 20% from three. His body looks slimmer, he says he’s in a better mental state than last year, but his performance in preseason hasn’t shown the work he has put in yet.

This is where we say, it’s just preseason, but Crowder had the backup four spot locked down due Thabo’s injury. It was Crowder’s and he couldn’t lose it. This year, it has changed. Thabo is back from injury, but he hasn’t had a preseason performance that could overtake Crowder as the favorite. The dark horse candidate is Georges Niang.

Don’t over look an undrafted free agent signing. Quin Snyder has already shown he is willing to give minutes to those who produce regardless of their NBA pedigree. That’s how Utah has found diamonds in the rough with Joe Ingle and Royce O’Neale. While Jae Crowder might win this competition by default more than anything, a strong couple of games from Niang could make Crowder feel some heat from his teammate behind him on the depth chart.

The return of Dante Exum

Dante Exum returns tonight after a two game hiatus due to a sore knee. He had a ho-hum game from the field in his first game of preseason, shooting 33% from the field and only finishing with 3 points. While he didn’t get points per game twitter excited, he did get analytics twitter buzzing with his 6 assists, 1 block, 138.4 ORTG, 62.2 DRTG, and +/- +36.0 while on the court.

With Grayson Allen and Alec Burks showing out, all eyes will be on Dante Exum to see if he can fend those two off and keep his place atop the depth chart.