What can I say about the Utah Jazz after last night’s 96-91 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers? Well, on the bright side, Deron Williams played like a beast on offense, as he scored 31 points on 11-16 shooting (6-8 from 3). However, that is where the positives really end for the Jazz on offense. Although D-Will had the hot hand, he was only able to rack up 6 assists which is about 4 less than he averages per contest.
Coming into the game, I said that the Jazz were going to need great balance on offense if they wanted to win. They clearly did not have that, and hence the 5-point defeat at the hands of the Blazers. I also mentioned the importance of limiting LaMarcus Aldridge’s production inside. In the first half Aldridge was held to just 8 points on 3-8 shooting from the field, as the Jazz held a 2-point halftime lead. In the second half, though, Aldridge started going to work on the inside as he accounted for 18 second half points. Watching Aldridge use his big frame to his advantage was nice to see as a basketball fan who has always thought that this guy has underperformed. Unfortunately as a Jazz fan, it was rather frustrating to watch Aldridge eat up the under-matched Utah front-line.
Of course, the main headline coming into the game was Wesley Matthews’ return to Utah. Be it as it may, Matthews was relatively quiet in this game as he scored 14 points on 4-14 shooting from the field. Once the game picked up a flow, he was just another player on the court, and you couldn’t really tell that it was his return to ESA. The most noticeable thing that he did was go to D-Will after the game for a quick stop-and-chat. The two seemed to have gotten along last season, and it appears that it has carried over into this season. Another important thing I noticed was that D-Will gave Matthews his left hand when they did a closing vertical fist bump. The importance? Williams hurt his right wrist toward the end of the game and was clearly trying to protect it. Unless, of course, D-Will always gives the left hand.
Before I end I want to talk about the return of Mehmet Okur into the Jazz rotation. With the return of Memo, the Jazz are usually going to have to keep one of their rookies off of the roster. Last night it was Jeremy Evans. I don’t know about you, but I think that the Jazz need to have a guy like Evans available. For instance, in a game like last night where the Jazz looked flat, Evans could have lifted their spirits with a few high-flying dunks and alley-oops. I understand that Memo is important to this team because of his ability to stretch a defense due to his shooting ability, but he is the exact opposite of a Jeremy Evans. Because of their differences, I think that both guys should remain in the rotation against taller teams, but I think that Gordon Hayward should sit out. Especially when the Jazz are playing a lengthy team like Portland, Jerry needs to realize the matchup problems that the lack of size will present, and he needs to have Evans available. I’m not saying that Hayward should never be active, I’m just saying that Sloan needs to evaluate the opponent and adjust accordingly.