Trail Blazers Can't Overcome Turnovers In Preseason Loss To Jazz

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- In the first two games of Portland’s 2018 preseason, it seemed like one of the main goals was figuring out new ways to utilize returning players while also finding out what they had in the new additions. But the third preseason game served great reminder of just how potent of a trio Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkić can be.

Lillard, McCollum and Nurkić combined to go 26-of-33 from the field and 9-of-13 from three for 64 points in Portland’s 123-112 loss to the Utah Jazz in front of a crowd of 15,879 Sunday night at the Moda Center.

“I thought all three of those guys really played well," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "Damian was very efficient obviously, I thought he played with a good pace, had good looks and was very efficient with his offense. Nurk was outstanding defensively. I thought he disrupted things at the rim and in the paint, blocked shots, rebounded obviously. And then CJ had a very good all-around game. So those three, it was good to see them out there playing that well.”

With the loss, the Trail Blazers are now 1-2 in preseason play.

The Trail Blazers looked to be the better of the two teams Sunday night, at least when both teams played lineups and rotations that are likely to be seen once the regular season starts in two weeks. Portland took a 61-50 lead into the intermission and led by as many as 15 in the second half.

"I thought we played a really good first three quarters," said Lillard. "Obviously in the preseason, you’re going to have that rust, you’re going have guys who don’t have a whole lot of experience, you’ve got to allow them to go out there and play and learn. But it was a good feeling being back on our home court.”

But once the game was turned over to the reserves in the fourth quarter, Utah’s young players proved themselves more prepared for the task than Portland’s. The result was the Jazz outscoring the Trail Blazers by 19 in the fourth quarter to come away with the victory.

Lillard looked superb in 25 minutes of play, going 9-of-11 from the field and 4-of-5 from three for 23 points to go with seven assists, four rebounds and two steals. McCollum came with a similar effort, going 8-of-13 from the field and 3-of-6 from three for 21 points to go with four assists and two rebounds in just under 27 minutes of play.

"I'm ready," said McCollum of where he's at in terms of preparation for the regular season. "I was ready before we started playing (preseason) games."

And then there was Nurkić, who showed off his new three-point shot — he went 2-of-2 from deep — on the way to 20 point and 11 rebounds for the preseason double-double. The 7-0 center also blocked five shots.

"I know what I can do, it's a long game," said Nurkić. "If I'm open, I'm going to shoot it and I'm going to keep shooting. It's not going to change definitely my game but I'm going to still be at the rim, I want to still try to play defense the best I can... I'm going to shoot some threes but I'm not going to take away what I do."

Rookie Anfernee Simons was the only other Trail Blazers to score in double figures with 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting. Nik Stauskas added eight points and Seth Curry, who started versus the Jazz, went for four points and three rebounds.

Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 21 points on 7-of-19 shooting.

While Portland looked improved, one area of concern was turnovers. Were it not for the 28 points Utah scored on Portland’s 26 turnovers, the result, meaningless as it ultimately is, might have been different.

"I think in this game you’re going to have nights where you turn the ball over a lot, especially in the preseason when you’re just a little bit rusty, timing is off sometimes," said Lillard. "I mean, it happens, you never want to have turnovers, but if it’s anytime you’re going to do it, you want it to happen now."

Next up, the Trail Blazers play the Suns for the second time of the 2018 preseason Wednesday night at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 pm.