Tonight is the last dress rehearsal of the preseason. The Utah Jazz will host the Portland Trail Blazers as they look to dial in more defensively and gain more chemistry in their soon to be regular rotational minutes. In Utah’s last game, they struggled on the defensive end which Quin Snyder attributed more to attention and effort rather than the lack of ability.
Rudy Gobert—who is Utah’s main weapon on that end—has not been as dominant in the preseason as he was in FIBA and last season. That could be due to Gobert trying to prevent himself from getting hurt in a game that doesn’t count right before the regular season and trusting in his abilities. However, the Jazz would probably like to see Rudy Gobert show that patented Defensive Player of the Year skillset with their new lineup to have some fears—well-founded or not—that the Jazz’s defense may not be up to its expected brand allayed.
Maybe this is just due to what I’ve been accustomed to as a Jazz fan for the last decade, but the Utah Jazz’s offense has been absolutely brilliant. They are averaging a 6th best offensive rating in preseason at 109.6 and and eFG% of 56.8%. Their pace has also climbed to 108 possessions per game. That’s quite the pivot from prior years. This high octane offense could also be what is prolonging the Jazz’s adjustment with their new players.
The Portland Trail Blazers will be looking to see how they measure up against Utah’s new-look lineup. While the Jazz have received a lot of offseason love, the Trail Blazers have been identified as a team that could fall out of the Western Conference’s playoffs. Not as a result of losing talent, but just as a result of the Western Conference anteing up. No one should overlook Portland in the upcoming season as they have a penchant for overachievement. They have the young Anfernee Simons who many are excited about in preseason. If he takes a leap this season, he could prove to take away Portland’s main weakness: not being able to play Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum 48 minutes a game.
When: 7:00PM Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
TV: AT&T RSM
Radio: 1280 The Zone
What to watch for
Quin Snyder may be annoyed by Utah’s lack of defense during preseason, but he doesn’t look alarmed. Snyder believes Utah’s inefficiencies on that end are due to their lack of focus. That could be true as three of Utah’s players played in FIBA over the summer, half the team is new, and many are veterans trying to stay fresh for the regular season. In past years, I have said that Utah can’t just expect to flip the switch and be ready for the season, but this team is a lot more seasoned and experienced than any other Jazz team. They very well could flip the switch and be ready for the regular season. It just would be nice to have a glimmer of swarming defense that has been an expected part of the Jazz’s identity since Gobert arrived in Utah.
Another good test for Utah
While Portland will use parts of this game as a way of projecting where they stand in a reloaded Western Conference, Utah has yet another chance to take the temperature of their new roster. I said on twitter the other day that it has been a number of years since Utah played such a competitive preseason schedule. They’ve played on the road against two good teams, they’ve only played one NBL cupcake, and now at home they play possible playoff contenders in the Kings and Trail Blazers. Portland is going to throw some good punches in this game. The hope is Utah is able to use this game to build momentum into their highly anticipated and hyped regular season.
extra points for— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) October 15, 2019
(but really just the two points) pic.twitter.com/O34aOpOm4S
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