Okay, so the Utah Jazz (3-3) dropped their final preseason game of the 2016-2017 campaign to the mighty Portland Trail Blazers (4-2). The Blazers completed the sweep of the Jazz, and did so in the exact same way: a never ending onslaught of perimeter scoring and way too much Damian Lillard. So, in a way, the Jazz didn’t get better from Game 1 to Game 6. Of course that’s not true. The Jazz played game one with Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, and no Alec Burks. They played this game -- a winnable game — without all three. But really, Amar? October is way too early to make moral victories about close losses at home because of injuries.
Not this year, please. Not this year.
Utah started off strong in the game, with Rudy Gobert towering over the competition; however, Portland started to get in rhythm on their jumpers. At the end of one it was tied 16-16. Hanging tough with Portland for one quarter isn’t bad; but this isn’t something to celebrate either. Over the next two quarters the separation between a healthy (minus Festus Ezeli) playoff team and a hurt lotto team became apparent. The Blazers went up +8 in the second and +4 in the third.
Lillard had 27 points in 28 minutes, shooting 11/16 and going to the line only twice in order to do his damage. He didn’t need to play in the fourth quarter. Neither did starters Maurice Harkless or Al-Farouq Aminu. Heck, Mile Plumlee finished with a near triple-double in just 24 minutes of work: 8 points 10 rebounds, 7 assists. C.J. McCollum played about 3 minutes in the final frame. Effectively, Terry Stotts new this game was over, and Portland had won it.
Quin Snyder went deeper into his bench as well in the fourth quarter, and they went on a little run, bringing the Portland lead to under five. But it really wasn’t close. At a critical juncture the team forced a Shabazz Napier turn over with less than a minute on the clock — and ended up resolving their out of time-out play with a Henry Sims missed three.
Less than stellar end of game execution. The Jazz 3rd and 4th stringers are better than theirs. But the Blazers starters are better than our crew, minus two. Utah had a +15 FTA advantage, and only turned the ball over 9 times (-7 turn overs) -- but lost. A huge factor was shooting 37.2 FG% and 30.4 3PT%. The Jazz were 1/10 from deep at halftime, so I guess the 6/13 second half effort isn’t that bad. It’s still not good.
And so ends the preseason for the Jazz. The regular season starts on the 25th, on the road against these same Trail Blazers. From what we’ve seen so far, I don’t think we’re going to win that one either.