Utah at Portland: Things To Watch For

October 11th, 2010 | by Mychal
Coming off a 100-96 victory against the Portland Trailblazers the Jazz travel to Portland to once again face their division foe.  While the final scores in preseasons games have little to no meaning in the regular season, the matchups and discoveries during these preseason games have a lot of bearing on how games will be decided in the upcoming 82 game season.  Here are a few things to look for in tonight’s game:

New Starting Lineup

I can't lie, these warmups are fresh.

The starting lineup of Williams, Bell, Kirilenko, Millsap, and Jefferson proved potent and lethal.  In fact they posted an average +/- of +20.  While they were on the floor they outscored Portland’s starters by an average of 20 points!  Tonight, however, Sloan is “toying” with the lineup.

With so much defensive pressure in the starting rotation the bench looked weak.  Weak might be a generous adjective.  Once the starters came out, Portland’s bench feasted on Utah’s bench like a pack of wolves on a three-legged cat – make that a blind three legged cat.  The bench was said to have looked confused at times and playing outside of the offense.  The bench averaged a +/- of -10.  Ouch.  Big bodied Fesenko led the way with -17 (ouch).

[Sidenote: Should have made that dunk big fella.]

Tonight Brian T. Smith of the Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that Williams, Thompson, Miles, Millsap, and Jefferson are getting the starting nod.  Thompson will go from a DNP in game 1 to starting in game 2.  Welcome to the Jazz, young man.  It seems that Sloan wants to see if the cohesive failures of the bench can be fixed by having Kirilenko and Bell lead these young bucks off the bench.

Can the starters with Thompson and Miles set the tone for the game?

Can the bench play solid relief minutes for the starters?

Gastric Distress

Look there's even a basketball hoop in the background!

Whoever the cook is for the Jazz needs to hold off the beans and salsa for the rest of the season.  Guys, seriously, wash your hands.  Buy some Purell.  Stay away from Charles Barkley’s Big Box from Taco Bell.  Whatever it takes.  Deron had a bout last week, and now Jefferson is feeling the ills.  Jefferson says he’s good to go for tonight but we’ll see how long he stays in.

My suggested game plan?  Get the ball to Jefferson with his back to the basket and his defender early and often.  Lets see if Aldridge or Camby wants to body up on the big fella tonight.  Good thing the Jazz aren’t wearing their home whites.  I guess Sloan was right when he said being able to find the bathroom in a new arena is important.

Backup Point Guard Battle

To backup the greatest you got to be the greatest. (Courtesy of Deseret News)

Watson, Price, and Gaines are in a battle to backup Williams.  The favorite in the race is Watson, but Gaines has been putting on a show since camp started.  The kid had to fight his way into the league, and ever since “the shot” that took down the King, he hasn’t looked back.  Each of them got 12 minutes each in the last preseason game.  Here’s what each did with it:

I love Ronnie Price as much as anybody and this competition will definitely push all these guys to be better players.  But after the first preseason game the score is Gaines 1, Watson and Price 0.  Something to keep an eye on.

5 Games in 8 days

Things will heat up quickly for the Jazz over the next next 8 days.  Keep an eye on the rookies Hayward, Thompson, and Evans.  This is their real first taste of the NBA grind.  Can they sustain a high level of play for these 8 days?  This will be a good barometer for how the skinny Hayward and Thompson will adjust to an 82 game season (not to mention the playoffs).

[Sidenote: Evans’ nickname is Slim.]

Tell us what you think.  What are some other things to watch for in tonight’s game against Portland?

Follow Mychal on Twitter! @My_Lo


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