SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - MAY 12: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers in action during a game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena on May 12, 2021 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Utah's Search For Consistency Continues Against Portland

After a phenomenal response on Saturday night against New Orleans, the Jazz return to the court for a showdown between two of the top backcourts in the league with the Trailblazers in town

What a difference 24 hours makes.

When the Utah Jazz walked off the court Friday night following their heartbreaking loss to New Orleans, it was apparent from their faces how they felt about the way the game ended. They reiterated as much during the postgame press conference, constantly shaking their heads in disbelief and searching for answers.

"I don't know how many times we're going to have to lose in the playoffs," all-star Rudy Gobert said Friday night. "I'm going to be 30 or probably 40 by then. I don't know how many years we're going to be losing in the playoffs without learning. … We're doing the same stuff over and over and over."

The Jazz vowed to do better — and they did just that 24 hours later in a rematch with the Pelicans. They turned a one-point loss on Friday night into a 40-point lead in the fourth quarter on Saturday, settling for a 127-105 win in which the starters barely played in the final 12 minutes.

"Things that were different tonight than last night are things that we need to have focus on and continue to make them important no matter who we're playing," head coach Quin Snyder said Saturday night. "I think everybody was focused on the details of the game that could help the team. … Our focus was on the group."

Now comes a new challenge for the Jazz — performing at the same level they did on Saturday, consistently playing with that same energy and attention to detail. They'll have a chance to do just that on Monday night when they host Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. MST.

One of the most significant differences in the two games was Utah on offense.

The Jazz put on a clinic of efficiency on offense, shooting 56.3% (45-for-80) from the field and 57.1% (20-for-35) from beyond the arc. Seven players finished in double figures scoring, with five of them having at least three three-pointers in the game.

It was the sort of performance that Snyder believes his team is capable of when the ball never stops moving. The Jazz consistently passed up good shots for great shots, as everyone was getting involved in the play-making process. 

"We talked about the difference between being self-centered and selfish. … We're not a selfish team," Snyder said postgame Saturday. "I think we as people can have that; that's our nature to think about ourselves. Tonight we were thinking about our teammate, thinking about the team. … The whole is greater than the sum of the parts."

One of the most impressive things about the Jazz response to Friday night's game was their resiliency and accountability. 

Snyder and the players weren't afraid to be honest when speaking to the media Friday night, calling out themselves for their effort and lack of discipline. As noted above with Gobert's quote, the Jazz can't be making the same mistakes if they wish to achieve greatness at the end of the season.

"I think we are a very smart team, so we know that it's a long season, and we know that it's not about one game," Gobert said Monday. "It's about our mindset every night, what we do as a team and who we want to be as a champion."

They did the first part by rectifying the original loss with a thrashing of New Orleans on Saturday. But now they need to continue that trend against the Trailblazers, a team that was in the middle of finding its rhythm before suffering a recent two-game losing streak.

The game will be hyped about the battle between two of the best backcourts: Utah's Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley against Portland's Lillard and CJ McCollum. While that matchup deserves high praise, the battle between Gobert and Portland's Jusuf Nurkic will be just as enthralling. 

Utah Jazz
*Royce O’Neale: QUESTIONABLE / right foot/ankle sprain
*Udoka Azubuike: OUT / right ankle injury

Portland Trailblazers
*Norman Powell: OUT / right ankle injury

Time: 7 p.m. MST
Location: Vivint Arena / Salt Lake City, UT
TV: AT&T Sports Network
Radio: 1280 The Zone 


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