The Trail Blazers surrendered their lead in the fourth quarter to fall to the Jazz 123-112. Damian Lillard and the rest of Portland’s regulars built a 92-84 lead through three quarters. Utah had other plans in the final period, as they amassed 39 points to capture a preseason victory on the road.
The final result landed in the Jazz’s favor, but the Blazers provided plenty of reasons for optimism.
Let’s Talk Tempo
The Blazers have discussed pushing the pace this season, and it appears like that plan might yield positive results. Turns out, CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard are much better when facing a defense that isn’t set. Jusuf Nurkic deserves some credit, as he was quick to set a screen on the perimeter when the Portland made its way down the court.
One way the Blazers can mitigate their lack of post experience this season is to play quickly on the offensive end. With Rudy Gobert trailing down the court, Portland found favorable looks throughout the night.
Lillard and McCollum combined for 44 points.
The first half provided a brief glimpse of what a Zach Collins and Nurkic frontcourt pairing would look like. This big fella combination was rarely used last season. Tonight, the duo showed their defensive potential. Nurkic has proven he can stifle opponents by sinking to the middle of the paint, and Collins showed that he can play off his counterpart by providing help inside.
Al-Farouq Aminu’s spot in the starting lineup is cemented for this season, but Portland fans should be encouraged by what they saw from the Nurkic-Collins partnership.
The Bosnian Beast in the Room
Nurkic connected on both of his three-point attempts against the Jazz. Through three preseason games, the big fella is shooting an even 60 percent from beyond the arc. It is frivolous to read too much into preseason play, but Nurkic’s outside shooting could be here to stay. If he can reliably score from outside the paint, the Blazers offense could reach new heights this year.
Sunshine and Rainbows
Nik Stauskas and Anfernee Simons both showed they can contribute outside of their respective roles. Playing alongside Portland’s regular rotation players, Stauskas showed that he is more than just just a catch-and-shoot operator. The former Nets guard put the ball on the court and successfully garnered the Jazz’s attention.
Simons displayed his quick release and penchant for drawing contact. The rookie recorded 10 points, with 3 of them coming at the free throw line.
The Blazers will return to action when they host the Suns on Wednesday night.
—Steve / @SteveDHoops / BEdgeSteve@gmail.com