SALT LAKE CITY – When the ball doesn’t go in the hoop it’s awfully hard to win a basketball game.
That’s what the Utah Jazz learned in a big way Monday night with a dreadful shooting display that resulted in an 88-81 loss to the Portland Trailblazers at EnergySolutions Arena.
The Jazz managed to shoot just 31.2 percent from the field and a mere 22.7 percent from 3-point range. Even at the foul line, the Jazz had their troubles missing 13 free throws and shooting 68.3 percent from the line.
Thank goodness for the Jazz it was just a preseason game as they fell to 2-2 after winning a pair of games against the Lakers in Hawaii before losing to Phoenix Friday night.
“We weren’t very good offensively,’’ said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “We didn’t make plays, we didn’t make shots and we have to learn to be better. Sometimes guys don’t have good shooting nights.’’
If you want to make a positive out of the poor shooting night, you could say at least it was a team effort as nearly every Jazz player clanked shots all night long.
Check out these numbers: Gordon Hayward 3 for 15; Derrick Favors 2 of 11; Rodney Hood 3 of 11; Trey Burke 2 of 8. That’s just 10 of 45 for four of Utah’s top players.
Only Alec Burks, who is returning from offseason shoulder surgery had a decent shooting night, but even he didn’t make it to 50 percent, going 6 for 13. Burks finished with a team-high 19 points as well as eight rebounds and a team-high three assists. That’s right, Burks led the Jazz with three assists.
The Jazz had just 13 assists on the night with the point guards combining for only one, as Burke has zero and backup Raul Neto had one.
Snyder pointed out that his team hadn’t really practiced in a week until Sunday and that it was just the fourth game of the year. Still he said the poor overall outing was an indication of where his team is right now.
“This is a true look at where we are,’’ he said. “The ball sticks when you’re not efficient and not spaced well and there’s not where to pass it. Now we get a chance to practice and try to clean some things up where we can be more efficient offensively.’’
Hayward struggled with one of his poorest shooting nights ever at ESA, but he was just as disappointed in the Jazz’s start when they fell behind by 15 in the first quarter as he was by the poor shooting.
“Lack of precision, lack of focus causes you to miss shots and for whatever reason in the first quarter we were kind of stuck in the mud and it’s hard to bounce back,’’ he said.
The Jazz shot an abysmal 23.8 percent from the field in the first quarter on 5 of 21 when they trailed 29-16 at the end of the period.
The Jazz finally took their first lead since the opening minutes when Burks made a free throw for a 61-60 lead with a minute left in the third quarter. A drive by Burks gave the Jazz a 72-70 lead at the 8:25 mark, but that was Utah’s last lead of the night.
Portland’s C.J. McCollum, starting at the point in place of an injured Damian Lillard, who was out with a sprained ankle, had his own shooting troubles starting the game 3 for 17. Then he made three of his next four, to stake the Blazers to a lead they never lost.
However with 2:18 left and Portland leading 80-76, McCollum fouled Hayward hard after a steal, and was assessed a flagrant 2 foul as boos rained down from the ESA crowd.
However, the Jazz didn’t take advantage as Hayward made just one of two free throws and then missed a 10-footer in the lane.
Back-to-back baskets by Al-Farouq Aminu and Mason Plumlee, the latter on a massive fake-out on Utah’s Rudy Gobert, pushed the lead to 84-79 with 46 seconds left.
Meyers Leonard led the Blazers on the night with 19 points and McCollum had 16, while Aminu added 15.
As disappointed as Hayward was with his team’s effort, he’s still being positive with the start of the regular season still two weeks out.
“We’re still figuring things out dash — it’s still preseason,’’ he said. “We’ll have practice tomorrow and look at film It should be a good week for us to figure some things out offensively and hopefully we bring more energy.’’