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Utah Jazz turn preseason around with nice win over the Portland Trail Blazers

Impressive showing for the Utah Jazz offense that struggled in the first two games

Portland Trail Blazers v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz looked like a different team tonight in their 138-133 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Easily the best player on the floor tonight was Lauri Markkanen, who scored 26 points in just 25 minutes on the floor with some insane shooting (9/12 from the field, 2/2 from three, and 6/6 from the free throw line). Markkanen showed his ability to score in isolation along with with his patented spot-up shooting and floor running. That ability to punish mismatches is going to be huge for the Jazz. They don’t currently have an all-NBA player on the roster, although Markkanen likely changes that this year, but they do have high-level rotation players from 1-10. If the offense can move the ball and find mismatches, they can punish the weaknesses of a lot of teams and they did that tonight with Markkanen.

John Collins had his most impressive game in the last three games. Personally, I’m excited about what we saw. His first play of the game was a beautiful pass for an alley-oop inside. He also got the ball in different places on the floor and did a lot of nice things, whether cutting to the basket, rebounding, or catching more baptismal lobs (I like the John the Baptist nickname okay). This was the version of John Collins Jazz fans were hoping for in the trade from Atlanta this offseason. For the night, Collins shot 5/7 from the field with 15 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist. 15 points a night from Collins will be a fantastic addition, along with his athleticism at the power forward.

Portland Trail Blazers v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

As well as Markkanen and Collins played, there was an adjustment to the starting lineup that appeared to help a lot. Jordan Clarkson replaced Collin Sexton in the starting lineup and the offense looked a lot more fluid with him on the floor. It wasn’t perfect but the ball was moving better and players like Markkanen and Collins got the ball in better positions. Not only did that move help the starting unit but Collin Sexton looked a lot better in the sixth man role he had last season. Sexton was great tonight leading the second unit and came out with an impressive 16-point night with 6 assists! That type of play with the second unit is going to help the Jazz win a lot of games because of the depth. Do the Jazz still have too many guards? Yes, but having this kind of depth means the Jazz can make a lot of adjustments during the year to help win more games.

It’s time for the necessary comments about Keyonte George. George looked great in his time on the floor. For the night he scored 17 points on 4/8 shooting with 4 assists and 2 rebounds. The other impressive stat is the 6/6 free throw shooting. That ability to get to the line is advanced; not every player has that. The fact George can earn points at the line like he’s doing means he’s going to consistently put up big numbers on high efficiency for the Jazz. The other element that’s so fun to watch is the passing. George is reading the defense well and making great reads. He needs to improve on the 3 turnovers he had tonight but it’s actually crazy how advanced his game looks. Some of what he’s doing looks beyond his years which, combined with his athleticism and speed, give him the potential to be an absolute star for this team. It’s only a matter of time.

Finally, Taylor Hendricks got some more time on the floor and, despite a shaky start, he calmed down and made some nice plays, including a big three at the end of the game.

Hendricks looks raw but you can see the blend of athleticism, length, and shooting that the Jazz have to work with. He’s going to be good for the Jazz, he just needs time to acclimate to the speed of the game and the Jazz system. Once he does he has the potential to be a great player for a long time in the league.