The Utah Jazz left the Moda Center with a convincing 20-point win Wednesday night in the first game of the NBA regular season for both teams.
Portland started with the lineup of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Derrick Jones Jr., Robert Covington, and Jusuf Nurkic. Utah took the floor with Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, and Rudy Gobert.
The Blazers got on the board first with a beautiful back-door Dame screen and Nurk pass to CJ, who finished off the glass. He added two threes to open up a 13-6 lead for the Zers early.
Both CJ and Conley started 3/3 before missing their next shots. Derrick Jones Jr. was feeling himself from deep early, making his first two threes.
For all the signs of promise we saw from the Blazers, Dame was struggling early (0/3 from all 12 minutes of the first). The Jazz took the lead soon after the second rotation came in (Kanter, Melo, and Gary) with some lights-out shooting (6/12 from deep).
Melo really struggled, missing all three of his shots in the first period. GTJ’s corner trey pulled Portland within seven, 32-25, to end the quarter.
Utah continued their hot shooting to open the second quarter, led by Bogdanovic and Ingles. Terry Stotts called for time at the 9:12 mark trailing by 13.
Donovan Mitchell was seen heading back to the locker room, but returned to the bench almost immediately. As he re-entered the game, he smartly drew contact from Covington around a screen for RoCo’s second foul.
Yet another Bogdanovic three forced another timeout with 6:29 left, score at 52-33.
Portland started building some momentum with deflections on defense, but the offensive struggles continued. Mitchell hit two straight threes before drawing another body foul.
Portland ended the half with three misses and two Nurk free throws to make it 65-44. Dame went scoreless in a half for the first time in probably a very long time.
The second half picked up right where the first left off. Gobert’s monster and-one dunk over Nurk was an emphatic reminder of how poor things were going in Portland.
Even when the Blazers got to their spots, they couldn’t get the shots to fall. Trent passed up a breakaway layup to give Dame a WIDE open three, but even that wouldn’t fall.
The Jazz won the third quarter 29-24 and effectively put the game to bed. With the score at 94-68, no one would lament seeing younger guys get some minutes at this point.
Gary Trent had a Shaqtin’ moment on a missed breakaway layup that really should have been a dunk. He redeemed himself after a timeout by hitting a three to cut the lead to 17.
Still, the best entertainment was provided by Melo’s obscenities. The broadcast failed to mute him on an exceptionally-vulgar and-one attempt, making up for the lack of Rip City representation in the stands.
Portland’s scrubs (Blevins, Elleby, and Giles III) came in with four minutes remaining and the Blazers still down 20. Giles hit a nice three but the Jazz finished with a nice clean 120-100 victory.
This was certainly not what we wanted to see on opening night. This really looks like the same old Blazers we saw limp through the pre-bubble regular season last year. The offense never got moving, the defense gave up way too much from behind the arc, and everything was made easier by Mitchell getting between his defender and the rim. His pick-and-roll game with Gobert is ruthless.
When it’s this bad, things can only get better. Here’s a video of the best thing that happened tonight:
Our 2020-21 roster introduced by our local heroes ❤️ pic.twitter.com/MaiE4BPKGc
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) December 24, 2020
Player(s) of the Game
CJ McCollum had a team-high 23 points on 7/19 shooting and was 6/6 from the line. Enes Kanter was a perfect 7/7 from the field, adding eight boards in almost 26 minutes.
Portland host Houston on Saturday the 26th at 7pm. The game will be shown on NBA TV and NBC Sports NW.