Jazz at Trail Blazers: Game Night
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz 2020-21 season gets underway with an opening night road trip to Moda Center to face the Portland Trail Blazers.
This is your KSL Sports Game Night article where we follow the matchup from Jazz coach Quin Snyder’s pre-game media availability through the final buzzer.
Our Jazz insider Ben Anderson adds his thoughts and updates from the game and includes the best highlights from the game courtesy Kyle Ireland.
Snyder’s Pre-Game Availability
The Jazz have a significantly deeper roster than last season with a full 10 players who averaged 10 minutes or more per might last year including the newly acquired Shaq Harrison.
Both Elijah Hughes and Udoka Azubuike have extended college experience compared most rookies, while Miye Oni looked significantly improved entering his second season.
But don’t expect Snyder to play a full 10-man rotation just because he can.
“The good thing is that we have the ability to play 10-11 guys,” Snyder said of the team’s depth. “Whether that happens is on a game to game basis.”
The Jazz may prefer to see Harrison get more minutes one night in case they need his defense in the backcourt. Other nights, Georges Niang may see more minutes in the team needs depth and shooting in the frontcourt.
“There’s times when one guy might play over the other,” Snyder said. “Your rotation could change, and it gives you that flexibility as well.”
The NBA is no longer requiring coaches to wear full suits during games this season. Snyder said he hadn’t voted for or against the change, though he did have one gripe with the clothing change in the bubble.
“I got tired in the bubble of having to tell everybody what color shirt to wear,” Snyder said.
Instead, Snyder said he and his coaches plan to have one singular approach to the dress code.
“We’re going Johnny Cash,” Snyder said. “We’re wearing black on black all year. And that way, no one can ever be wrong. And if I spill coffee on myself before the game, no one knows.”
No major surprises in the starting lineups. Look for Snyder to try to mirror the minutes of Joe Ingles and Derrick Favors off the bench.
Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers have two new long, rangy defenders on the wing in Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr.
Covington’s ability to shoot is going to be important for the Blazers spacing this year as Jones is a non-shooter.
It’s a little strange that neither G League player is active in the Jazz rotation as they can have dress 15 players, but are opting to go with just 14 on opening night.
The Jazz are struggling with Portland’s length in the first four minutes of the game. They are getting into the paint but not finding kickouts so they’ve had to take some tough shots or turned the ball over.
The Jazz defensive strategy is clearly to leave Jones Jr. to help, but he’s made them pay hitting 2/2 so far from deep. He’s a career 28 percent three-point shooter.
The Jazz second unit came in and really beat up the Blazers bench to build a big lead.
Georges Niang is the ninth man in the Jazz rotation after Facors, Ingles, and Clarkson check in, so no Harrison yet in the first half.
Jazz finish the quarter on a 21-8 run to take a 32-25 lead into the second quarter.
With 6:29 left in the second quarter, the Jazz have blown this game wide open. They lead 52-33 and the Blazers have no idea how to slow down the team’s three-point attack.
The team looked pretty rusty out of the gate and it seemed like maybe all the easy looks during the preseason were a mirage but it’s showed up over the last 14 minutes and the Jazz are playing very good basketball.
The Jazz are deep and have the ability to end games in a hurry.
Most of the Jazz damage was done by the second unit but Mitchell made sure the lead didn’t shrink as the starters (minus Bogdanovic plus Ingles) built a 21 point lead at the break.
Mitchell has 15 points at the half to lead all scorers, and it’s seemed pretty easy so far.
Damian Lillard is scoreless through the first 24 minutes. He averaged 43 points a game last season against the Jazz.
The Jazz simply didn’t let up in the third quarter. While three-point shooting did the work to open the game, it was the pick and roll play from Gobert that built the lead.
Mitchell continues to grow as a playmaker and it was highlight on Gobert’s pretty poster on Nurkic.
The Jazz won the quarter 29-24, and have won each of the three quarters so far by at least five points, hence the blowout.
Portland’s defense is extremely concerning but would have been aided by better offense from Lillard and McCollum. The two guards have combined for just 21 points through the first 36 minutes.
Jazz take a 94-68 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Jazz have looked a little lackadaisical to start the fourth quarter and Portland went on a 9-0 run to cut the lead to 20.
Gobert has 20 points and 15 rebounds and has thoroughly dominated Nurkic, but the Jazz will have to put together a few more good minutes to close this game out.
Both the Blazers and the Jazz empty thier benches with 3:09 left in the fourth quarter. Udoka Azubuike and Elijah Huges making their NBA debut’s which is an impressive sign in a season opener.
The Jazz closed out the Blazers and won 120-100. Overall a very impressive performance on both ends of the floor limiting Portland’s guards while getting open look after open look on offense.
Jazz finish with seven players in double figures led by Gobert and Mitchell who had 20 each.
Utah Jazz Scoreboard
Utah Jazz Team Leaders
Utah Jazz Standings