Trail Blazers, Jazz seek solace from in-season tournament game
Posted on: 14 Nov, 2023 at 01:46 AM
Credit: Jessica Alcheh-USA TODAY Sports
The Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz are both off to sluggish starts.
But one of the teams is about to be 2-0 in the NBA's new in-season tournament when the Trail Blazers and Jazz battle Tuesday night in Salt Lake City.
The winner of the contest is assured of at least being tied atop West Group A.
Utah and Portland each defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in their first tournament games. The Los Angeles Lakers also won their first game and host the Grizzlies on Tuesday. The Phoenix Suns are also part of West Group A.
While many observers are still in wait-and-see mode per the tournament, Jazz forward John Collins liked the atmosphere during his team's 127-121 win at Memphis on Friday night.
"It feels a little bit more intense, just straight up," Collins told reporters. "The court, the jerseys, all the extra oomph.
"They want fans, players, coaches just to be more engaged in the regular season. That's better for business for everybody. And it definitely felt like it had turned up a notch."
Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson each scored 26 points and Collins added 18. The Jazz led by as many as 21 before holding off a charge by the Grizzlies.
"That's a good experience," Markkanen said of fighting off Memphis down the stretch. "Obviously, it wasn't pretty. A win's a win."
That victory snapped Utah's four-game slide and was just its third win in 10 games this season.
Now the hope is that the energy continues Tuesday during the start of a three-game homestand.
Portland has lost three straight games and six of nine this season.
The Trail Blazers dropped a 116-110 road game against the Lakers on Sunday night even though Los Angeles was without LeBron James (calf).
Portland used a 12-0 burst in the final quarter to move within one but could never move ahead as the Lakers repeatedly extinguished the threat.
"I thought we played a good game, really did," Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said afterward. "We had a lot of great efforts from a lot of guys, complete game from everybody. Everybody contributed, everybody who got in there played well, close game. They shoot 37 free throws, we shoot nine, that's just tough."
Portland's Malcolm Brogdon missed the contest with a strained hamstring and will also sit out Tuesday's game.
Brogdon's absences make the backcourt thinner with the team already missing Anfernee Simons (thumb) and rookie Scoot Henderson (ankle).
One player seizing the opportunity is Skylar Mays, who is averaging 16.5 points and 11.5 assists over the last two games. Mays had 15 points and a career-best 12 assists against the Lakers.
Mays opened the eyes of the Trail Blazers late last season when he played in six games for the team. A plethora of injuries turned Portland's late-season games into glorified tryouts and Mays impressed by averaging 15.3 points, 8.3 assists and 50 percent shooting from the field.
Mays recently had his contract upgraded to a standard deal. He was previously on a two-way contract.
As for his play the past two games? Mays wasn't impressed.
"I feel like I played OK but I want to win more than anything," Mays said. "That's kind of where my head is. ... I think I'm just getting more comfortable. Obviously we have a lot of scoring and it's my job to get those guys good looks."
Portland won the past three meetings after Utah won eight of the previous nine.
--Field Level Media