Tonight the Portland Trail Blazers play their sixth game out of seven scheduled for this pre-season as they face the Utah Jazz at the Rose Garden. The scheduled start is 7 p.m. with TV coverage provided by CSNNW.
We've run the gamut of things to watch for during these pre-season contests. We've looked for integration of veterans, demonstrations of rookie talent, advances from guys trying to win a spot on the roster. Those concerns are all starting to fade. We've received answers to some of our queries. Others will cease to matter soon. Either way, the regular season is just around the corner.
Our pre-season previews have all received the moniker "Five Things to Watch For". That's be disingenuous tonight. The only thing that counts from here on out is how rapidly the team picks up its desired style of play and how efficiently the players can run the required sets. As was true in the last contest we should see more consistent minutes for guys destined to play in the regular season. How do they look together? Are they standing up or breaking down? No matter who's on the court--first unit, second, or far-flung reserves--the currency will be open shots on offense, focused hustle on defense, and enough rebounding to keep in control of the game.
As individual performances take a back seat to continuity, you can judge this game by asking, "Did these guys look like they knew what they were doing?" A yes answer will bring confidence whether the team wins or loses the game. A no answer will be worrisome even if somebody explodes for 30 in the process.
Consider this game a Final Exam of sorts for the pre-season. It's not the final test for the year, of course. That course hasn't even started. But it's the end of the introductory period...a chance to show your stuff for the home crowd one last time before taking a deep breath and plunging into 2012-13 proper. Yes, there's one more contest in Salt Lake City on Thursday, but that'll have more of a potluck flavor. Regular players may get shut down and bubble reserves may get one last look. Tonight is the real climax of the exhibition season for Portland.
Let's see how they do.
Discuss the proceedings during our live GameDay thread, opening an hour or so before tip-off. Stay tuned after for recap and analysis as well. You can also visit SLCDunk in the meantime if you care to see what the Jazz have been up to.