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Utah Jazz pass first preseason road test against Portland Trail Blazers

PORTLAND, Ore. — The final score at the Moda Center read 123-112 in the Utah Jazz’s favor on Sunday night, but head coach Quin Snyder had nothing to celebrate.

Even after a come-from-behind effort, where the reserves closed it out on a 24-8 run, Snyder still sees holes to correct, notably on the defensive end.

“I didn’t think we played well,” Snyder said, after the Jazz improved to 4-0 in the preseason. “We didn’t play good defense and a lot of it was just not being focused. There were breakdowns, and I didn’t think we had the level of intensity that we needed on the defensive end.”

Portland logged preseason team highs in field goal percentage (51.9 percent) and 3-point percentage (40.6) percent, despite the loss.

Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic all logged 20 or more points without playing in the fourth quarter as Donovan Mitchell carried the Jazz offensively with a team-high 21 points on 7-for-19 shooting in 24 minutes.

Mitchell exited the game in the third quarter after rolling his ankle, but said it was fine afterwards in the locker room as he iced it down.

“Just rolled it, just precaution,” Mitchell told the Deseret News. “It’s nothing serious at all.”

Utah will face Portland four times during the 2018-19 campaign, including a marquee Christmas Day game at Vivint Arena on Dec. 25. After this, the Jazz also have one more preseason contest in Sacramento on Thursday, before regular-season competition also starts in Sacramento on Oct. 17.

Snyder sees these next few days as time to fix the mistakes.

“Just collectively, we didn’t do as well as we need to do,” Snyder said.

Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the Jazz-Trail Blazers game:

TIME WELL SPENT: Snyder didn’t schedule a practice session following Friday night’s 30-point victory against the Adelaide 36ers of Australia. However, the coaching staff still found time to catch the younger guys up to speed ahead of Sunday’s tip-off in Portland. Jazz players Naz Mitrou-Long, Jairus Lyles and Isaiah Cousins put in extra work after shootaround with assistant Mike Wells and Salt Lake City Stars G League coach Martin Schiller. Second-year center Tony Bradley and Tyler Cavanaugh were also on the other end working with trainer Nixon Dorvilien and new assistant Vince Legarza. Wells said that additional time spent on the court together keeps them in sync with the more experienced returners.

RETURN OF THE EX-MAN: Jazz guard Dante Exum made his return to the lineup after missing the last two preseason games with right knee soreness. The organization is using precautionary measures to make sure the team is at full strength for the regular season opener at Sacramento on Oct. 17. Exum missed all but 14 games last season while recovering from a shoulder injury. He signed a three-year, $33 million extension with the Jazz this offseason. Exum connected on his first 3-point attempt at 2:50 in the first quarter against Portland and finished with nine points, two rebounds and two assists in 16 minutes. However, he did appear a bit hobbled near the end of the third after a slip on defense, but shook it off quickly and still managed to close out the game strongly.

“It was good to see Dante out there, you could feel him during the time that he was in there,” Snyder said. “It was good to see him attack.”

DAME DOLLA: Former Weber State star Damian Lillard may be an All-Star for the Trail Blazers, but he holds close ties to Donovan Mitchell, as fellow Adidas endorsers, and Jazz assistant Johnnie Bryant, who also hails from his hometown of Oakland, California. Lillard briefly caught up with Bryant ahead of the tip-off at the Moda Center, but didn’t take it easy once the game got underway, finishing with 23 points, seven assists, four rebounds and six turnovers, despite sitting the entire fourth. He averaged 33.0 points in four games against the Jazz last season, but sees them as legitimate Western Conference contenders.

“I think they are a really deep team,” Lillard told the Deseret News. “They’ve got a really deep team.

“You get a center like Rudy, a four man like (Derrick) Favors, then you’ve got Jae Crowder and his experience with good teams, played with some of the best players,” Lillard listed. “Then you’ve got Donovan, an up and coming star, Ricky Rubio has been a starting point guard in the league for a long time, then you’ve got Dante Exum coming off the holding it down and then you’ve got Royce O’Neale. They’ve got a deep roster.”

Correction: A previous version of this story had the incorrect score of Sunday's game.