The long-awaited season starts now. Finally.
The Utah Jazz begin this hyped season on the road at the Portland Trail Blazers. Here are five things to watch for tonight.
1 - Who will step up in the place of injured Jazz stars?
Joe Johnson (rest) did not practice. Derrick Favors increased participation but didn't practice. Alec and Gordon were obviously out— Tony Jones (@tribjazz) October 23, 2016
Gordon Hayward is out for about 6 weeks. Alec Burks has yet to practice in full contact drills. Derrick Favors has started to at least participate in practice. We’ve not heard for sure that they are all out for the game yet, but we can assume they will be.
Guys will need to step up. Two of Utah’s three best players are out. The Jazz now have a team that is better equipped to deal with big absences like this. The new additions and young talent will be relied upon heavily right out of the gate. It will be interesting to see how Quin Snyder uses his resources to cover up the missing minutes from Hayward, Favors, and Burks.
2 - Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are really good. Someone needs to guard them.
Everyone knows these guys can shoot. Terry Stotts knows this. He is a great coach because he plays to his team’s strengths. These guys have the ball in their hands a lot and run off of a lot of screens. They are both great with the ball. They are both great without the ball.
At some point in this game Damian Lillard is going to get on a roll. He is hard to stop once he gets going. Who is going to be the primary defender on both of these great players?
3 - Which coach makes the best adjustments?
Quin Snyder and Terry Stotts are both excellent coaches. They both know their players very well and try to play to the strengths of their guys. Stotts has fewer new additions to get acclimated to the team than Quin does. I’d say Quin definitely has a tough job tonight. He’s got new guys that are being pushed into more important roles and minutes than originally planned for out of the gate due to injuries.
Quinn will be both working to get the new guys to fit with his team and trying to adjust to a great offense from an established Blazers team. Quin’s coaching abilities will be on full display tonight. Look for the in-game adjustments made by each coach. Specifically, look for the defensive adjustments that Quin makes to the Blazers offense and the offensive adjustments that Stotts makes to counter.
4 - Can the Jazz limit the Blazers role players?
Lillard and McCollum are going to get theirs. I think one of the biggest keys to this game is limiting Al-Farouq Aminu, Allen Crabbe, Mason Plumlee, Evan Turner, Gerald Henderson, Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard and Ed Davis.
Witout Favors, our defense against PF’s could take a big hit. Boris Diaw and Trey Lyles will be asked to assume that responsibility. If two of Portland’s role players surpass 15 points tonight I think it will be tough to get a win, assuming that both Lillard and McCollum do what they do by getting their 20-27 points.
5 - Will the Jazz score enough without their two leading scorers?
This might be the most important aspect of missing Hayward, Favors and Burks. If Burks were healthy, he could arguably be the team’s third leading scorer. But they’re all out. This team needs to score. How much slack will Rudy Gobert pick up? Can Rodney Hood shoot with consistency? Can George Hill, Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw fit in quickly? Can Trey Lyles and Dante Exum continue their strong play?
I’m looking for Rodney and Trey Mamba to have solid games. Look, I don’t think anyone is going to score 30 for us tonight. Utah needs a balanced scoring attack and sound defense to get the W.
I. Can. Not. Wait. #TakeNote