It’s true, it’s all true. The last Preseason game for the 2016-2017 Utah Jazz (3-2) season is tonight. It will be at home (hooray!) but against our division rivals, the Portland Trail Blazers (3-2). This game isn’t on TV, so you should really go to the game if possible. For reals!
In The Overtone we went down memory lane to some key Jazz/Blazers moments on and off the court, in a refresher for why we hate them. In The Five Things to Watch we looked at the bigmen on both teams, and the big picture as well. And of course, in The Triad it really was all about Dante Exum and Rudy Gobert . . . and the desire for no one on either team to get hurt so close to the start of the NBA Season. So what’s really left to go over? Well, I guess this Game Preview is like the last Preseason game — it has more in common with the last math question in your homework than an actual NBA Game.
Both head coaches (Terry Stotts and Quin Snyder) want to see how five man units work with one another, while also making sure no one plays out of control or gets hurt. The General Managers for both teams (Neil Olshey and Dennis Lindsey) have some cuts to make still, and some players are right on the bubble still. Grant Jerrett, Greg Stiemsma, and Tim Quarterman are all fighting for one spot in Portland. Chris Johnson, Jeff Withey, Henry Sims, and possibly even Raul Neto are fighting for the last two spots in Utah.
For the players it’s about finding their groove after so many months of non-NBA ball, and making sure that they can flip the switch from 50% speed (preseason) to 100% (regular season).
So what are we going to see tonight? Well, when all is said and done with the 2016-17 Season, these two teams will have seen one another at least six times. Portland won the first preseason game 98-89, and went 3-1 against the team last season. Being able to win games against Playoff teams isn’t a given. Ever. So hopefully the Jazz can pull one out tonight.
We know that Festus Ezeli isn’t going to be playing tonight. The rest of their injury report is listed as TBD by the NBA, but gambling sites say that Pat Connaughton and Meyers Leonard may not be in the mix for tonight. Furthermore, Ed Davis as an undisclosed injury. We will probably know more about them the closer we get to the game.
As for the Jazz, well, yeah ... no Gordon Hayward / Derrick Favors / Alec Burks. Rodney Hood will be back, and we’re going to need him. Depth. Yadda Yadda. Depth. I know. But at some point I want to see this Jazz team become that fully operational battle station that we think it can be.
- Point Guard: Damian Lillard vs. George Hill
- Shooting Guard: C.J. McCollum vs. Rodney Hood
- Small Forward: Maurice Harkless vs. Joe Johnson
- Power Forward: Al-Farouq Aminu vs. Boris Diaw
- Center: Mason Plumlee vs. Rudy Gobert
Marquee Match-Up: Hood vs. McCollum
This is a re-match of the first Marquee Match-up this preseason. In the first game McCollum could not miss, and got open all night long. Hood isn’t going to be a top flight defender in this life-time. But he should at least be average for an NBA Starter. He’s at a disadvantage having to guard SG/PG types who are shorter, quicker, and faster than him. But that’s what he’s going to be asked to do. (Either that, or put in more work in the weight room Rod, become a SF/PF like Joe Johnson did.)
Hood has moves on offense, but hasn’t really carried this team the way Gordon Hayward has. In a way, this solidifies the actual pecking order. No one felt like Hood could replace G-Time. But some of us are hoping that Hood can at least make us miss Gordon a little less while he’s out recovering from his hand injury.
Playing defense tonight would go a long way.
X-Factor: Depth of rotations
Both head coaches want to get a better feel for their actual regular season rotations. That could mean fewer minutes to fringe players. If both teams go into deep space, the Jazz will win. If both teams keep it to 10 guys for the most part, that’s a different story right now because of Jazz injuries. I don’t actually see a team that trots out Shelvin Mack / Joe Ingles / Joel Bolomboy losing a lead. Especially not in preseason from the evidence we’ve seen so far.
But you never know what to expect in the last preseason game. Utah plays tonight, duh, but then do not play again until the 25th. Against the Portland Trail Blazers, in Portland. There’s plenty of time to figure stuff out, but both coaches have to be keeping their cards close to their chest tonight.
Prediction: Jazz win
Screw you Portland!