Preseason is a time to shake off the rust, while trying to get acclimated to new teammates. Based on Utah’s Monday outing against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Jazz might be wishing they had more than two preseason games on the docket.
Portland, on the other hand, was in midseason form and may be yearning for an even more truncated season. Minus an early tie, Nate McMillan’s team led from start to finish. The Blazers' spirited, balanced effort produced an impressive 110-90 victory. Paced by former Jazzman Wesley Matthews’ 17, nine Portland players scored at least eight points.
The first quarter started out slowly for Utah, with the Blazers jumping out to a quick 32-19 start thanks to some torrid shooting and athletic play by Portland’s veterans. The Jazz deficit ballooned as high as 20 in the second quarter, but an 8-0 run, spurred by second-year man Derrick Favors’ six points, cut it to a 54-42 halftime score.
The Jazz starters, after a rocky first quarter, showed some life in the third by cutting the lead to eight points twice. But Portland regained composure quickly, and led by Gerald Wallace, Raymond Felton and Nicolas Batum, pushed things back up to an 83-65 advantage at the end of three.
Outside shooting proved to be troublesome for Tyrone Corbin’s team. Only 1-12 from 3-point range, Utah was caught many times launching long attempts to beat the shot clock. Turnovers also played a big role. The Jazz finished with 22 miscues, 12 of which belonged to the starting lineup.
Toward the end of the first quarter, the quartet of Utah’s highly touted youngsters — Favors, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks — were playing together. And each showed why Jazz fans are optimistic about the future. Favors paced the Jazz with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Kanter was strong off the glass, nabbing 10 caroms himself. Rookie Burks brought a lot of energy, as did second-year man Hayward. Not to be ignored, Jeremy Evans chipped in nine points in just nine minutes.
None of the five training camp free agents — Keith McLeod, Jamaal Tinsley, Trey Gilder, Paul Carter or Scottie Reynolds made it into the game.
The two teams meet up again at EnergySolutions Arena Wednesday night.
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