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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Utah Jazz Preview

The Blazers hope to get back on track tonight against the Jazz in Salt Lake City.

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NBA: Utah Jazz at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (4-3) vs. Utah Jazz(3-2)

Wednesday, November 1st - 6:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Meyers Leonard (out)
Jazz injuries: Joe Johnson (out), Dante Exum (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: SLC Dunk

After a tough 99-85 loss to the Toronto Raptors that saw them go nearly the entire second quarter without a field goal, the Portland Trail Blazers are back in action tonight to take on the Utah Jazz on a single-game road trip. After, they’ll head back home to play six more games at the Moda Center.

What to watch

  • Does it look like Jusuf Nurkic’s back is bothering him? After struggling somewhat through the first seven games of the season, Nurkic was seen wearing a heating pad on his lower back before Monday’s loss to Toronto. So far, we haven’t seen any hindered movement or mobility, but with his hands full against monster center Rudy Gobert, it will be worth keeping an eye on.
  • Noah Vonleh’s minutes. After a several-week absence, Noah Vonleh is cleared to see his first action of the season against Utah. Common wisdom dictates that a player shouldn’t lose his starting job due to injury, but Al-Farouq Aminu is playing very well as Portland’s power forward. With Ed Davis and even Caleb Swanigan providing solid rebounding off the bench, it will be interesting to see how Stotts manages the big-man rotation tonight.
  • Can the Blazers get out on the break? One way to shake up a stagnant offense is to try to get some easy buckets in transition. Utah likes to control the tempo, playing at the slowest pace in the NBA, but they also commit the second most turnovers in the league. Considering the molasses-like speed of their offense, that’s not a great sign for Jazz fans. Portland has an opportunity to take advantage of Utah’s miscues before that daunting defense can get set.

What they’re saying

Ricky Rubio, Rodney Hood, and Donovan Mitchell have been careless with the ball, and that may come back to bite the Jazz, writes DWest over at SLC Dunk.

Check out Ricky Rubio’s TOV%—out of every four plays he makes, he turns the ball over once. He has the highest total number of turnovers by far, and “leads” solidly in turnovers per game, per 36 minutes, and per 100 possessions.

To be clear, I’m still firmly on Team Rubio. He needs time to adjust, and he’s clearly a gifted passer. We have no choice but to play Hood heavy minutes, because he can score, though his defensive and ball security skills leave something to be desired. Donovan Mitchell is a rookie, so he gets a bit of a pass this season. They’re not the only ones with turnover problems—just look at the chart—but they’re a big part of the problem.

Quin Snyder knows all this stuff, and I’m sure he’s working hard to ensure that ball security is a top-priority. After all, 6 points per game can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Mike Sorensen of the Deseret Sports News wrote about Rudy Gobert’s bounce-back game against the Dallas Mavericks, after a rough night against the Lakers.

It may have seemed like a fairly normal night in the fact that Gobert scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. But the big Frenchman really shined in a couple of other departments as he ended up leading his team with six assists, a career high, and finished with a season-high six blocked shots. Oh, and get this, he also made a 15-foot jumper.

“Rudy, he had a very, very good night,” said coach Quin Snyder. “As much as anything I was excited to see he let the team come to him, obviously he can make a huge impact on the game.”

Snyder talked about his “sureness with the ball” and called the assist total “a big deal. That’s something we’ve been emphasizing with him.”

As impressed as he was with Gobert’s offense, Snyder had to gush about his defense.

“What didn’t show up in the box score is the times he deters people from going to the rim,” Snyder said. “It’s just hard to score over him. At some point. it has an impact on the opposing team because they know he’s down there.”

The Salt Lake Tribune’s Tony James talked about Rodney Hood’s progression as one of Utah’s leaders.

Rodney Hood is finding that being the man isn’t always easy.

The adjustment for Hood isn’t in his actual game. It isn’t difficult to tell that the Utah Jazz shooting guard has made improvements to his overall skill set. He’s stronger than he was last season. He has adjusted his shooting motion slightly to make it more compact, and his percentages are up as a result.

The real challenge for Hood — who is quiet and unassuming by nature — lies in his mentality. Being the top option means being aggressive. Hood can float through games at times, waiting for the ball to come to him, instead of commanding the ball and going to work offensively. When the Jazz had Gordon Hayward, this wasn’t an issue. Now, Utah and its coaching staff need Hood to take more shots, find better shots and impose his offensive will on opposing defenses.

For Hood, that’s not simple.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s something I embrace and something that I’m working on,” Hood said.