Utah Jazz suffer rough night in 'learning experience' loss to Blazers
Otto Kitsinger, AP
BOISE — Utah Jazz fans might be thankful Friday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers wasn’t televised.
It wasn’t pretty.
It might be a pretty realistic preview of things to come, though.
Three nights after an impressive home win, the Jazz were blown out by a much more experienced Blazers squad 96-86 in a road game played at CenturyLink Arena.
“A lot of times on the offensive end, we didn’t execute like we did against Golden State,” Jazz starting point guard Trey Burke said, referring to Tuesday’s 101-78 win. “It’s just a learning experience for us. We’ve just got to learn from it and move (on to Saturday).”
The Jazz returned home after Friday’s setback and will take on the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
They’ll have to tidy things up considerably from Friday’s outing to challenge Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Co.
On Friday, starting small forward Gordon Hayward looked sharp, scoring 20 points with two 3-pointers.
And, well, that about wrapped up the highlight performances for the Jazz.
Utah shot 37.7 percent; Enes Kanter came off the bench for 11 points (one of two players in double figures); and the Jazz fell behind for good when Portland blew the game open with a 13-2 run to begin the second half.
“We were right in there. When we were executing, we were fine on both ends of the floor,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “We created pace early in the game. When we got away from it, we got down.”
Given the makeup of this rebuilding roster, Tuesday’s surprising victory and Friday’s sloppy loss could be an early snapshot for a potential wild roller-coaster ride in the 2013-14 season.
“I think,” Corbin said, “(with) what you have right now, it’s tough to judge because the number of players we’re playing.”
Corbin threw another lineup curveball for the first of two preseason games against Portland. Burke, Hayward and big man Derrick Favors remained in the starting lineup, but Alec Burks and Jeremy Evans started instead of Richard Jefferson (night off) and Kanter.
“We wanted to look at different combinations for us,” Corbin said. “We wanted to see (Evans) in a different role. We wanted to get guys on the floor tonight.”
They certainly did all of that. Seventeen different players saw action for the Jazz, including exhibition debuts for roster hopefuls Brian Cook, Lester Hudson and Dwayne Jones.
“We’ll tighten it up here pretty soon,” Corbin said, “and make sure we get a good feel for what we have going into the season.”
It was another night, another stellar opponent for Burke in his rough NBA initiation.
On Tuesday, the 2013 NCAA player of the year held his own against Steph Curry, but he didn’t fare as well against the man who currently holds the title he covets. Damian Lillard, the 2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year, scored 23 points with five assists and had his way offensively.
Burke finished with seven points on 3-for-10 shooting and five assists.
“Heck of a player. You can’t take nothing away from his scoring ability, obviously,” Burke said of Lillard. “He’s a really good scorer and a really good distributor. I tried to do my best just to contain him.”
His next brutal matchup comes Saturday against Clippers star Paul.
“I love it that way. It’s going to make me better,” Burke said. “That was what I expected coming into this league night in and night out playing against some of the best guards in the world. It’s just my job to continue to lock in on personnel.”
Evans might’ve been the most dejected player in the Jazz locker room. The 6-9 forward, who started three games as a rookie, was upset about his showing in his rare appearance in the first five.
Evans won the tip and hit a long jumper, but he finished with just four points, two fouls and one steal in 16 minutes. His main defensive assignment, Blazers All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, had 20 points with eight rebounds.
“I just think I wasn’t prepared mentally,” Evans said three nights after notching a double-double against the Warriors. “Coming out, I think I brought the wrong energy.”
Evans was particularly upset about his zero in the rebounds column.
“I feel like I let them (my teammates) down tonight, just not running, no rebounds,” he said. “I feel like it’s tough.”
Kanter wasn’t frustrated about returning back to the bench, but he also felt out of sorts during his 23-minute outing. He hit half of his 10 shots and grabbed six rebounds.
“I just need to be more focused and try to help my teammates,” Kanter said. “Tonight when I was out here I was just confused.”
Kanter wasn’t the only one.
NOTES: Former Jazz point guard Mo Williams scored 11 points. He came off the bench to begin the game but was with Lillard and the starters to open the second half when Portland raced to a big lead. Former Jazz point guard Earl Watson did not play. Jazz starters Burks (1 for 5), Favors (2 for 8), Evans (2 for 3), Hayward (5 for 11) and Burke (3 for 10) shot just 35.1 percent.
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