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Utah Jazz blow out Portland Trail Blazers in season opener

Steve Dipaola, AP
Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley, left, shoots as Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020.
AP

The Utah Jazz beat the Portland Trail Blazers, 120-100, in the season opener for both teams on Wednesday night.

It was an absolute blowout by midway through the second quarter and the Jazz didn’t let up. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert paced the Jazz with 20 points apiece, Mike Conley added 18 points and Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson chipped in 15 each.

High Notes

  • 3-point shooting had been an emphasis throughout the preseason and we were all anticipating the Jazz to let them fly early and often but I’m not quite sure that the Blazers were ready for the onslaught from beyond the arc. The Jazz shot 50 3s and made 19 of them. It’s not the greatest percentage but the threat was enough.
  • The 3-point barrage came from the likely suspects of Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson who all had wide-open looks and took advantage every time.
  • The Jazz looked a little off for the first few minutes and it was the second unit that broke the game open which leads me to double down on something I thought during training camp and the preseason. The Jazz’s bench is going to not only be able to maintain leads and stave off damage caused by the opposition, but they’ll be able to win games for the Jazz this season. That’s a huge difference from where they’ve been before.

  • Noted shotblockers (that’s sarcasm) Ingles and Clarkson were the first two Jazz players to record blocks on Wednesday. Seriously though, the Jazz’s defense was as tight as you’d hope it would be to start the season, keeping the Blazers from being able to rely on their most potent weapons.
  • Gobert missed a short bucket early in the second quarter but he stayed with it, got the rebound and put it back in and he did so with strength and force, which I know is appreciated by the fans and it’s certainly appreciated by the Jazz players. The first one off the bench cheering and flexing was Mitchell.
  • Royce O’Neale did not have an effective night from an offensive perspective, going 0-for-4 from deep, but he didn’t let that impact him on the other end and his rebounding effort was impeccable on both ends.
  • Not a single person in the NBA has figured out a way to deal with the Ingles and Derrick Favors pick-and-roll. Still works perfectly.

Low Notes

  • A high note for the Jazz — their defense — led to a very low note for the Blazers. Damian Lillard was scoreless through the first half and finished the game with just nine points. This is after Lillard scored 127 combined points in the previous three contests against the Jazz. I’m sure the Blazers don’t need to be worried about their star player, who will surely have many good nights this season, but they should be worried about not being able to get him open looks.
  • I noted this during the preseason and I won’t bring it up again after this unless it becomes a problem. It is going to take a while for Bogdanovic, Clarkson and Conley some time to get used to playing with Favors. Everything else with the Jazz is working so well right now that’s it’s not a huge concern and honestly it’s not a concern to me anyway. I’m just pointing out that Favors still isn’t certain where Bogdanovic is going to get him the ball and isn’t used to Clarkson’s way of dribbling and that’s to be expected.

Flat Notes

  • On Tuesday night’s edition of Inside the NBA on TNT, Charles Barkley announced that he was placing a $100,000 bet on the Trail Blazers to make it to the Finals. That might be an ill-advised wager.
  • Portland added some defensive pieces in the offseason and has reportedly been tweaking its defensive scheme, but it has not produced any sort of concrete results. The Blazers defense was horrendous on so many levels. If the Blazers want to make some noise this season and if there’s any hope of them making a deep run in the playoffs, they have to fix things on the defensive end.