Jazz Season Hits New Low With Loss To Trail Blazers

Nov 22, 2023, 11:26 PM | Updated: Nov 26, 2023, 7:37 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The rocky 2023-24 campaign for the Utah Jazz hit a new low with Wednesday’s 121-105 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Though the final score indicates the Jazz were beaten by only 15 points, that fails to capture to true depravity of the game.

The Jazz trailed by as much as 32 in the fourth quarter before halving the deficit by the final buzzer.

Lauri Markkanen scored 24 points to lead the Jazz while the Trail Blazers snapped an eight-game losing streak behind 30 points from Jerami Grant.

You Wanted A Rebuild? You Got It!

For much of last season, Jazz fans were clamoring for a full rebuild after trading away Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell during the summer of 2022.

Instead, the Jazz opened the season by winning 10 of their 13 games, which made it difficult to fully bottom out, even as they dropped 19 of their final 29 games of the year.

Make no mistake, the Jazz tried to tank.

The team traded veterans Mike Conley, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker for a future first round draft pick.

Lauri Markkanen played in just three of the team’s final 12 games. Jordan Clarkson played just once in the team’s final 19 games. And Collin Sexton made just one appearance over the final 22 games of the season.

Then, this past offseason, the Jazz front office showed signs that they may try to win this season by trading for veteran forward John Collins in late June, only to sit out of free agency, preferring to develop the youth on the roster rather than further invest in winning this season.

Outside of the Collins acquisition, the Jazz brass has been deconstructing this roster since mid-February, and it doesn’t look like they should stop any time soon.

Sitting at 4-11 on the season, it’s clear this is not a playoff roster, and further asset acquisition should be the name of the game nearly anywhere they can get it.

The Jazz are fully in the throes of a rebuild now, and with the exception of only a very few players on this roster, everyone’s job is up for grabs.

“We are either going to dig in and have the ability to learn or we’re going to have to make some real changes with who’s playing in the games,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said after the loss.

But it likely goes beyond that.

At this point, not only are the minutes not guaranteed on this roster, but roster spots have to be called into question as well.

The Jazz backcourt committed 12 turnovers, including eight in the first half. Clarkson reverted to early season struggles giving the ball away seven times against Portland, after committing just five turnovers in his last four games.

Talen Horton-Tucker had three turnovers in 14 minutes, while Sexton gave it away twice in 11 minutes while shooting a dreadful 0-5 from the floor.

Only rookie Keyonte George showed any signs of ball control, dishing out seven assists and zero turnovers in a team-high 34 minutes on the floor, while scoring a personal best 16 points.

John Collins production has been strong to open the season, but his woeful defense is a bad pairing with Markkanen and Olynyk, neither of whom hang their hats on slowing the opposition.

Ochai Agbaji and Simone Fontecchio have occasional bright spots, but neither has proven that they are deserving of full-time rotation minutes early in their second seasons.

To simplify, the Jazz are still in the deconstruction phase of this rebuild which began in July of 2022. As play-by-play voice Craig Bolerjack likes to say, fans should buckle up, because there is no end to this rebuild in sight.

Night;y Award: Utah Jazz vs. Portland Trail Blazers

The “Hold Your Horses” Award: 

Goes to me for tweeting this on October 28 during the Jazz’s third game of the season.

“Keyonte George is on a trajectory to have a 20 point game in the next 5-10 outings, and once he does it won’t stop.”

Since then, the Jazz rookie has scored in double-digits only three times in 12 outings, including his career-high of 16 points against Portland.

The truth is, George isn’t a terrific scorer right now, and it isn’t because he’s defaulting to running the offense first and looking to shoot second. He wants to score, he just doesn’t know how to do it right now.

The Baylor product struggles mightily inside the paint, especially in the half-court where he often seems to second-guess himself on whether to dunk it, lay it up, or pull up for a floater.

Unfortunately, none of those options fall with much regularity.

To make matters worse, George entered Wednesday’s game shooting just 29 percent from three, including 1-10 in his last two outings.

His shot looks pretty, but if it doesn’t go in, who cares?

Having talked to people inside the organization, there’s zero concern about George’s ability to score the ball at a high level, but right now, it’s clear he’s not ready to do it, and I was way off in my prediction.

Utah Jazz Next Broadcast

The Jazz will face the Pelicans on Saturday at 7:30 pm MST in Salt Lake City. The game will be televised on KJZZ, streamed on Jazz+, and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone.

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Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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