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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Utah Jazz Tournament Game Preview

Portland goes for their second tournament win in Utah.

Utah Jazz v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers have lost three in a row, but you’d never know it from the vibes around this team right now.

All of the injuries aren’t great of course, and there is plenty of room for the pessimists among us to find fault in one thing or another. The fact is though that a lot of fun things are happening. Guy most of us haven’t heard of three months ago are getting their chance to show what they can do, and in the process turning some heads. Rookies and near-rookies are going up against the best the NBA has to offer and are standing tall, if not victorious. And recent games have been largely down-to-the-wire affairs with plenty of excitement. At the moment this rebuilding stuff isn’t so bad.

The Utah Jazz on the other hand aren’t having nearly as much fun, in spite of a similar record as the Blazers. The Jazz were thought to be further along than the Blazers with their rebuild. A play-in spot seemed to be a reasonable expectation, but so far that doesn’t seem terribly realistic. It’s still early days of course, and there are enough bright spots to keep hopes alive in Salt Lake City. John Collins seems to be improving on his performances from last season in Atlanta, and Lauri Markkanen’s 24.2 points per game is nothing to sneeze at. So far though that just isn’t adding up to a winning formula.

Both teams will be looking to build on their perfect In-Season Tournament record. Both teams notched their win against the Memphis Grizzlies, with Utah’s victory taking place in their last game on Friday by the score of 127-121 at Memphis.

Portland Trail Blazers (3-6) vs. Utah Jazz (3-7) - Tuesday, November 14 - 6:00 p.m. PST

How to watch on TV: Root Sports, NBA League Pass

Trail Blazers injuries: Anfernee Simons (out), Scoot Henderson (out), Robert Williams III (out), Malcolm Brogdon (out)

Jazz injuries: Walker Kessler (out), Taylor Hendricks (out), Brice Sensabaugh (out), John Collins (probable)

SBN Affiliate: SLC Dunk

Blazer’s Edge Reader Questions

We’re trying something a little different in our previews by asking you to submit your questions about our next matchup. Check out our post about that here and leave your questions in the comments at that link for the Cleveland game!

From conspiritor5:

“I’d like to better understand how the Blazers match up against their first-time opponents in terms of size.”

The Blazers and the Jazz starters match up quite well in terms of height. Collins has a couple of inches on Grant, while Sharpe has an inch on George. When you look at players that have come off the bench for both teams recently, four out of five guys who came in for the Blazers in their last game are 6’7” or taller. They didn’t bring in a 7-footer, but 7’2” Moses Brown was an unused sub. Utah played just four guys off the bench in their most recent game, two guards 6’4” and under, a player who is 6’11” and another who’s 6’7”. The biggest takeaway is that the Blazers can bring in as much height as they want, and very few teams now can take advantage of them in that regard. Certainly not Utah. As a reminder, last season the Blazers often played with three guys 6’4” or shorter plus a 6’10” center, all on the court at the same time.

From RedUniInLa:

“When the Jazz relocated from New Orleans, why didn’t they rename the team? Same with the Lakers.”

In 1979 when the Jazz moved from New Orleans to Salt Lake City owning a sports team wasn’t the printing press for money that it is today. Teams were moving not only because they saw greener pastures, but in many cases the relocation was a desperation move just to stay a going concern. For a team like the Jazz they had to think about things like the costs involved in a rebrand. Why print new stationary when you don’t have to? Time was certainly a big factor as well. The NBA board of governors approved the sale on June 8, 1979. They played their first regular season home game in Utah on October 15, 1979. That’s not a lot of time to execute a complete rebrand. Another factor that was perhaps more important for the Lakers is that keeping the name makes it easier to bask in the former glory. After all, that club won 5 NBA championships in Minneapolis. You never hear Lakers fans brag only about the championships won in Los Angeles.

Thanks for the questions! Some of the more general ones that weren’t used might show up in a Blazer’s Edge Mailbag or feature article soon. Remember to get your Cleveland questions in here!

What To Watch For

  • Lauri Markkanen. After his breakout season last year Markkanen continues to carry the load for the Jazz. “The Finnisher” is averaging 24.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game and is shooting a tremendous 44.6% from deep. Markkanen is exactly the type of player the Blazers have struggled to defend in recent years. A 7 footer who is capable of canning the three isn’t exactly who Nurkic wants to chase around the floor. That doesn’t mean Ayton will relish that though either, but the Blazers roster now has enough length at various positions that Coach Billups has some options on how to defend the big Finn.
  • Turnovers. If you asked me for one word on why the Jazz are off to a slow start I’d say “turnovers”. They are worst in the NBA in that category at 18.5 per game. The Blazers are no great shakes themselves at 25th in the league, but their 16.1 per game puts them closer to a respectable 12th place than they are to Utah’s 30th place. Turnovers aren’t everything of course, but don’t be surprised if the team with fewer turnovers wins the game.

What Others Are Saying

As mentioned, turnovers have been a huge problem for the Jazz, but adambushman1 of SLC Dunk writes that the emergence of Keyonte George is addressing the problem.

Take last night, for example. In his 31 minutes, he logged 9 assists and recorded only a single turnover. His comfortability at the position is generating serious momentum for his role on the team.

Patrick Byrnes on Inside the Jazz says that Lauri Markkanen is going to get paid.

Markkanen would be eligible for 30% of the salary cap if he makes All-NBA this year because this season is his seventh year in the league. Considering he was one player from making it last season, the odds look better than a coin flip it will happen.

It’s not been a great season for the Jazz so far, but John Collins is bouncing back in Utah after a poor season in Atlanta according to Ben Anderson of KSL Sports.

The forward is the Jazz’s second-best three-point shooter at nearly 43 percent, while hoisting a healthy 3.5 attempts per game. Collins’ three-point percentage is tied with sharpshooter Simone Fontecchio, and trails only All-Star Lauri Markkanen on the team’s roster.