Matt Gade, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — After three blowout games — one good, two bad — the Utah Jazz finally had a preseason contest go down to the wire Wednesday night against Portland.
The young Jazz team didn’t handle it well.
The Jazz showed their inexperience against a more experienced Trail Blazer team and lost 99-92 at EnergySolutions Arena to fall to 1-3 in the preseason.
Trailing by two points with less than three minutes to go, the Jazz failed on five straight possessions as the Blazers finished the game on an 8-3 run.
“That’s part of the process of learning to finish ballgames," said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. “We played a pretty good game up until the last eight possessions to close the game out. We have to make sure we learn what we have to do and how important the little things are in that time.’’
The Jazz are missing experienced players, such as Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, but it wasn’t the rookies who made mistakes down the stretch. Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks each had the ball in their hands, but couldn’t convert.
Down 91-89, Burks came flying in from the right side, only to lose control of the ball out of bounds. Then on the next possession, Hayward lost the ball in a crowd in the lane and Damian Lillard scored at the other end to make it 93-89. Then Burks missed a long jumper and Portland sewed it up on a Joel Freeland 17-footer with 35 seconds left.
“We turned it over on two possessions and we at least have to get a good shot,’’ said Hayward, who scored 20 points for the second straight game against the Blazers. “And we have to execute plays. It’s all of us together executing our offense and when (Coach Corbin) asks me to make a play, or Alec or someone, we need to get into the lane and make something happen.’’
Hayward, who looks like he’s going to be Utah’s leading scorer this year, struggled with his shooting, despite getting 20 points. He only made 5 of 16 from the field and went 10 of 14 from the free-throw line.
Enes Kanter was the offensive star as he led the team with 23 points, including 16 in the first quarter when he made his first eight shots. Derrick Favors was the only other player in double figures as he finished with 10 points, but he also led the way with 17 rebounds, 16 on the defensive end.
Another Jazzman who played well was Lester Hudson, a 29-year-old from Tennessee-Martin, who previously saw limited action in three seasons for four different NBA teams. Hudson didn’t play in the first two exhibition games before playing 12 minutes last week in a game at Boise, scoring five points.
Wednesday night Hudson was the backup point guard behind John Lucas III and actually played more minutes than Lucas with 27. He finished with a solid line of nine points — all on 3-pointers — four rebounds, two steals, two assists and a blocked shot.
“I thought he did a good job on defense,’’ said Corbin. “He made some shots for us early, but I thought he did a good job defensively. His energy and the way he advanced the ball in transition was good.’’
For Portland, former Weber State star Lillard led the way with 24 points, including 10 of 10 from the free-throw line. Former Jazzman Mo Williams, who played the entire fourth quarter, scored 17 points and hit a big jumper with five minutes left after the Jazz had cut the Blazer's lead to one.
Another former Jazzman, Wesley Matthews, also hit a big bucket in the fourth quarter and finished with 11. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 16 points, while Robin Lopez had 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Burks, who came off the bench and played 31 minutes, had a dreadful shooting night, going 1 for 13 from the field and finishing with four points.
Despite the loss, Corbin was encouraged with a lot of things, especially the effort.
“I thought we had some good things happen in the game,’’ he said. “We have to get better in a lot of situations, but I thought there were some really good signs on both ends of the floor for us.’’
The Jazz play at Oklahoma City Sunday evening before going to Los Angeles for three games next week.
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