Game at a Glance:
The young and inexperienced Portland Trailblazers own a number of double digit leads over the Jazz in Salt Lake City, but are unable to close the deal as the Jazz (again without veterans Deron Williams and Matt Harpring) come from behind in the 4th quarter to win it -- the classic battle of experience and poise against youth and enthusiasm. Somehow this game reminded me of a game between the 1998 Jazz and the 1998 Spurs -- the Jazz won the battles back then, but you can see the potential for Portland to eventually win the war (they have a lot of potentially awesome young players), just as the Spurs clearly have. Portland fans don't have much to be upset with here (I fail to see why they are so down -- read their reactions here, here and here); they almost won a huge game against a division rival on the road -- without having their best player play their best game. Brandon Roy had 18 points (6-16 fg, 0-2 3pt), 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal -- if you guys pull off upsets without Roy scoring 20 you should be happy. And that's almost exactly what happened last night.
Jazz Quartet -- Top Four Players of the Game:
I'm happy that we got this win, and I felt as though doing so without Deron was a distinct possibility. (Scroll down to week 3) That said, I tend to agree with Hammy over at True Blue Jazz -- this game was a European Rookie's open three point attempt away from being all tied up with 20 seconds to go -- we really could have used Deron's offense tonight. The good news is that we didn't need him, we won the game, and we're a game against the Thunder away from going 3 weeks without Deron Williams -- and haven't lost yet. The better news is that our bench is winning games for us. We've had a good bench for a few seasons now -- last year he did pretty okay (save for the playoffs) with Ronnie Price, Kyle Korver, Matt Harpring and Paul Millsap. (And CJ for emergencies)
Portland is a good team, and I'm happy that we beat them. They have a few guys injured right now -- though I think that losing Deron (not to mention a valuable bench guy in Harpring) is worse than losing Oden (who you guys didn't need to beat us 3 times last year) and Webster. I think that Outlaw, Batum and Fernandez gives Portland some of the best young wings out there -- and that's not even counting Brandon Roy. Aldridge has a very effective offensive game (inside and out), but seriously . . . 2 boards? Total? Kyle Korver out-rebounded LaMarcus. This is just something the Blazer fans should not tolerate. Especially when guys like Batum crash the boards and get 6 for their effort (no need to even mention Przybilla who was a one man wrecking crew in the paint with 7 points, 16 boards and a million blocks). Portland harried the Jazz into 16 turn overs (so many in the 1st and 2nd quarter alone) and were on their way to a solid road win. I wouldn't be surprised to see the season series end in a split, or even 3-1 in favor of the Blazers if this first game is any indication. How often are the Jazz going to go 21 for 22 at the free throw line in a game? We needed every one of those to get back into this game and secure the win.
The under-appreciated positive is that Jerry Sloan is making some really good changes to the rotation depending on the situations of the game. And older version of Sloan would keep pounding away at the square peg and try to make it fit in a round hole (which results in a loss) -- but he was confident enough in our roster's make up (props to GM Kevin O'Connor) that he could keep switching people in and out to work for advantages. Need defense? Plug in Knight. Portland bringing the zone? Put in Okur and Korver. Is Przybilla out of the game? Put in Boozer and Millsap to score inside. As Siler points out, it worked out for us in this game. Hopefully Sloan will keep doing this all season long.
Next Game: Friday November 7th, 2008 -- Oklahoma City Thunder @ Utah Jazz [9:00 PM EST]