Inconsistent Blazers visit Jazz (Nov 01, 2017)
SALT LAKE CITY -- Becoming more efficient on offense is an ongoing quest for the Portland Trail Blazers.
One of the NBA's top-scoring teams, the Trail Blazers (4-3) are averaging 107.6 points per game while presenting a consistent threat from the perimeter. Inside the 3-point arc, it's a different story. Portland shoots just 42.8 percent from the field, which ranks just 24th in the league.
Improved shooting is critical in order to survive stronger defensive teams, such as the Utah Jazz, who host Portland on Wednesday night.
"Our offense hasn't been at the level we'd like it to be," Portland point guard Damian Lillard said. "When all this comes back around, it's going to be a great day for us. We can't put our heads down and lose faith in who are and what we're capable of."
Evidence of inconsistency in that area surfaced in a 99-85 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Monday. The Blazers scored a franchise-low six points in the second quarter against. They missed 18 of their first 19 shots in the quarter and fell behind by 19 points heading into halftime.
Portland tried to rally in the second half but could not climb out the cavernous hole. In the end, the Blazers failed to eclipse 100 points for the first time all season.
Creating offense won't be easy against Utah. The Jazz's defense hasn't lost a step from the level it reached a year ago.
Utah (4-3) gave Dallas fits for four quarters in a 104-89 win over the Mavericks on Monday. The Jazz forced 24 turnovers and turned them into 33 points. It helped counteract sizzling perimeter shooting from Dallas and break open a close game in the fourth quarter.
"We just picked up the energy on both ends, offensively and defensively," Jazz forward Derrick Favors said. "Started making plays. Guys started making shots. We zoned in defensively, and it kind of changed the game around. Picked up the energy and got a win."
On its home court, Utah has held three consecutive opponents under 90 points and has won all four contests by nine or more points. The Jazz are showing a knack for consistently forcing tough shots and getting hands into passing lanes, leaving visiting teams thoroughly flustered by the fourth quarter.
Stiff defense has opened up the offense for Utah in a big way. The Jazz shot better than 45 percent from the field in each of their past two games, with at least five different players scoring in double figures each time.
Ricky Rubio led the way in that two-game stretch, averaging 20.5 points on 50 percent shooting from the field. He also is making it easier for teammates to find shots and get into a rhythm with his passing abilities.
"It's great," Jazz center Rudy Gobert said. "He's going to find the open man. We have a very unselfish team, and it's fun to play."
Utah and Portland split the series 2-2 last season. The Trail Blazers have won at least two games against the Jazz in each of the past four seasons.