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Utah Jazz end preseason 1-4 with loss to Portland Trail Blazers

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Say it with us ... it’s preseason.

Portland Trail Blazers v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

With the loss to the Portland Trail Blazers tonight, the Utah Jazz finished the NBA preseason with only one win. The last time the Jazz only mustered one win in preseason was 2013-2014 which many will remember was a rebuilding year in which Utah only won 25 games.

In tonight’s game, Utah’s offense showed that it could stick around offensively with teams with star power. The Jazz end the preseason tied with the NBA’s 5th best offensive rating at 109.5. Part of that jump is Utah’s new wing heavy lineups with Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, and Jeff Green.

Bojan hasn’t quite hit his stride in preseason, but it’s just a matter of time until he hits his rhythm in games. Tonight he struggled while shooting 0-9 from the field. He’ll get in rhythm soon and everything will be okay. But that will be one thing to watch to start out the season. How quickly can he not be stuck in his head on the court and just be out there reacting and in rhythm.

The other part to Utah’s offensive explosion is Donovan Mitchell. Donovan went 9/19 tonight while going 5/6 from the free throw line. He had four rebounds, two assists, and only one turnover. He’s turning the corner. When the Jazz are firing on all cylinders, that’s just going to move Donovan from friendly neighborhood Spida-Man to Ultimate Spida-Man. Donovan Mitchell in preseason is averaging (PER36) 25.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists on 48% shooting and 37% from three. He’s a monster right now. That’s about to be unleashed on the NBA.

Mike Conley looked more in sync on offense but he struggled from three and only had two assists to his three turnovers. Part of that is the duo of Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley. Rudy Gobert seems to be finding out what his limits are with newfound space in the paint. There were plays tonight that he’d normally finish and go over the top of guys, but he just wasn’t showing that effort. Who knows if it was because of protecting his body or just lack of focus, but many Jazz guys—Conley, Mitchell, Ingles, O’Neale, and Green—were out there diving for loose balls and getting their hands dirty. We’ll give Gobert the pass right now, but Gobert isn’t Stifling right now and that’s something to keep in mind for the regular season.

Quin Snyder seems to feel this is an issue as well saying, “We haven’t imposed our will.”

But Quin isn’t just pointing the finger at Rudy, it’s everybody. While many lament the void left by Derrick Favors, many are forgetting that Jae Crowder—a wing—played most of the time at the four spot. Utah still kept their defensive integrity with a smaller lineup. Utah has to have that same focus and consistency with their new wings manning the four spot. If not, that could make the beginning of the regular season difficult.

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are still good. In the preview I wrote that Portland is always overlooked then always overachieves year in and year out in the regular season. Lillard and McCollum were on fire shooting a combined 19/28 and finishing with 53 points. That’s a destructive duo right there. A lot of those shots were taken with good defense. The Jazz now have the offense to keep up when stars like that are knocking down good looks, but they can’t have nights like tonight where their defense goes M.I.A.

The regular season starts up next week with the home opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder. SLC Dunk will have our season preview hit this weekend. The season is almost here. While losing 4 straight games to end the preseason isn’t the best way to build momentum into the season, the good news is even with the fourth straight loss the Utah Jazz are still 0-0 to start the regular season.