With opening night looming, the Utah Jazz will host Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers to close out their preseason schedule.
We’ve done it! After wading through the muck and the mire of your typical preseason slog, opening night of the 2016-17 NBA season is less than one week away. But before we get to the real games, the Utah Jazz have one, last exhibition bout to get through (hopefully unscathed).
Much in the same way that they began their preseason slate, the Jazz will be going head to head with Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. In their first game, the Jazz fell to the Blazers 98-89 at the Moda Center. It was an awesome effort by Utah for the first five-ish minutes; the next 40-plus were pretty ugly.
This time the game will be contested within the friendly confines of Vivint Smart Home Arena. And despite the fact that the Jazz will be missing some players, I’ll be expecting a better effort on their home floor.
Under normal circumstances, the preseason finale would look a lot like a regular season game, with coaches shortening their rotations and giving heavier minutes to their starters and key reserves. However, Wednesday’s game presents a unique scenario for both teams.
Thanks to a scheduling quirk, the Jazz and the Blazers are actually set to meet again on the hardwood to tip-off the regular season. Portland coach Terry Stotts believes this will have an effect on the preseason finale.
Said Stotts, “I think it’s going to be interesting how the game unfolds, just because … we play each other in a week. I doubt that either team really plays it full-bore.” Jazz coach Quin Snyder expressed similar sentiments at shootaround.
Nevertheless, the Jazz should look at least a little bit more like themselves against the Trail Blazers. Rodney Hood, who has missed multiple games with a sprained pinky finger, participated in shootaround and is expected to start for the Jazz.
The Jazz would do well to continue their strong defensive front from last game; they held the Clippers under 80 points and 40 percent shooting. They also need to limit turnovers, something that’s been a hit and miss proposition throughout the preseason.
I’m also looking for Hood to come out firing for the Jazz, and we can expect the team to continue to feed Rudy Gobert the rock down low as well.
How much either man plays remains to be seen, but one thing is certain — after this, the real games are here!
Gordon Hayward (broken finger) and Alec Burks (rehab) are out, while Derrick Favors (IT band syndrome) is doubtful. Festus Ezeli (left knee) is out for Portland, while Meyers Leonard (lower back pain) is probable to play.
The Westgate Superbook Las Vegas has the Jazz as four-point favorites in the game. Despite some of the scratches and the fact that the Blazers beat the Jazz in the preseason opener, I’m taking Utah to cover.
It’s the preseason, right? Let’s throw caution to the wind.
The Twitter hashtag for the preseason finale is #PORatUTA. I’ll also be hitting you with sporadic observations on the tweets @PurpleandBlues1. Or, if you like to party like it’s 2005, you can leave your thoughts in the comment thread below.