Jazz Win 96-100 over the Portland TrailBlazers
Thanks to a friend, I was able to sit up close in the ESA for the new-look Jazz first preseason game against Portland. It was fun to see the Jazz Vets pull a fast one on the rookies who led the team out onto the court only to realize the veteran’s were nowhere to be found. The Jazz won the game but it was interesting the disparity between the starting five and the bench. The Jazz starters played exclusively in the first and third quarters and outscored portland by 23 points in those two quarters. The Jazz bench was horrible defensively in the second quarter and let portland cut and 18 point lead to 3 at the half then gave up a 10 point lead to start the fourth quarter in less than about three minutes before holding on for the victory. Only a passionate fan like myself would read much into the first preseason game of the year but here are some observations:
• The Veterans played incredibly well together. I was impressed by their offensive output in the fist quarter and their defensive effort in the third quarter. I thought as I heard the starting five announced that Jerry was making the statement that it was each of those guy’s job to loose.
• Andrei Kirilenko seemed to thrive with the first unit. His effort on defense created a lot of the Jazz offensive when things got tough in the third quarter. If he can bottle that effort and play with that fire for extended periods of time we’ll win more games than people might be expecting. I also thought Paul Millsap looked ready and capable to be the Jazz starting four. He was active on both ends and impacted the game. It’s going to be interesting to see who Jerry decides to run the offense through come the regular season.
• Jeremy Evans might be the most athletic guy to ever suit up for the Jazz. He’s toothpick skinny but the kid is athletic and fun to watch.
• The reservers get top billing for their poor showing tonight. CJ Miles was particularly disappointing. It looked like he was supposed to be playing the three spot but seemed somewhat disengaged at times. He needed to be the offensive leader with the second unit and couldn’t bring himself to do it. Watch how he adjust to coming off the bench if he can’t supplant Raja in the starting five.
• Patience may be in order but I was rather baffled by the Jazz inability to involve Jefferson in the offense. The second unit ran the offensive through Fes like they were willing to loose for the sake of executing the offense. The starters seemed unable to get the pick-and-roll to work to any level of execution. They abandoned it early and never found a way to really spark Big Al offensively.
• Fesenko may be the most intriguing player to watch early in the campaign. He came out incredibly focused. Made some amazing plays, hit a foul shot and a jumper. Then, after spinning around a defender with a great pivot spin, he short-hopped the take-off and got blocked by the rim in embarrassing fashion. From there the wheels kind of came off for Fes. Each free-throw got progressively worse and he about got horse-collard by Jerry and Fans alike when he took an ill-advise jump shot with the Jazz leading by two and eleven seconds still on the shot clock. Fesenko shows flashes of (brillance may not be the word) sanity, then falls into this sulking stupor at times that may cost him both playing time and his career.
• It was hard to see Wes Matthews in a Portland Uniform. He played a whopping 38 minutes for Nate McMillan. Knowing Portland that was as much to rub it in our faces that we lost the grittiest, hardest-working rookie to ever wear a Jazz uniform. Typical Wes fashion, he fought his way to 21 points and was a critical cog in both Portland comebacks. Fan’s gave him a good ovasion which was well deserved, but if he continues to play as well as he did tonight when it matters, those cheers will quickly turn to boos for the kid from Marquette who will always be a Jazz rookie to many.