Utah Jazz round-up: Preseason ends with a bang

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Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood (5) shoots as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) watches during the second quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in Salt Lake City. The Thunder won 113-102. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood (5) shoots as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) watches in a preseason game Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in Salt Lake City. The Thunder won 113-102. (Associated Press)

The Utah Jazz ended preseason with a 3-4 record following a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder and a win over the Denver Nuggets.

The Oklahoma City Thunder came out on top 113-102 against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at Energy Solutions Arena.

The Jazz started out slow in the first quarter and were never able to recover. Thunder guard Russell Westbrook had a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Forward Kevin Durrant led the Thunder with 29 points.

“We came out a little lackadaisical and they took it to us,” Utah guard Trey Burke said in a postgame interview. “Second half, we woke up, but it was a little too late—KD (Kevin Durrant) got hot.”

Jazz guard Rodney Hood found a rhythm in the second half and led the team with 23 points on his 23rd birthday.

“I just stopped hesitating,” Hood said. “I got to just shoot. My teammates have a lot faith in me; my coaches have a lot of faith in me.”

Burke had 20 points and four assists while forward Trevor Booker had six rebounds on the night.

Both Burke and Hood said the team needed a game like this going into the regular season.

“These games need to happen, especially during this time where we can learn from it so it doesn’t happen as much during the regular season,” Hood said.

The Jazz bounced back to beat the Denver Nuggets 98-78 on Thursday, Oct. 22. Utah led the entire game, beginning with a 13-0 run in the first quarter. The team led 52-37 at halftime but extended their lead to 20 by the end of the night.

Utah Jazz guard Gordon Hayward (20) defends Denver Nuggets guard Erick Green (11) during a preseason NBA basketball game Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (Associated Press)
Utah Jazz guard Gordon Hayward (20) defends Denver Nuggets guard Erick Green (11) during a preseason NBA basketball game Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (Associated Press)

Burke came in off the bench and had 17 points while center Rudy Gobert had 11 rebounds and guard Alec Burks had five assists.

In the 2014-2015 season, the Jazz’s field goal percentage was 44.7 percent, just under the NBA average that year of 45.15 percent. Utah surpassed those season averages in both games last week, making 47 percent of its shots against the Thunder and 54 percent against the Nuggets.

Utah continued to adjust its roster before regular season as Bryce Cotton and Treveon Graham were waived on Tuesday, Oct. 20, trimming the roster down to 15 players. This move left only two true point guards on the roster in Burke and Raul Neto.

The Jazz added a few more players to the roster and soon waived them. These players will beef up the roster of Utah’s development league affiliate, the Idaho Stampede, while giving the players development league rights. They will not be available for the 2015 NBA D-League Draft.

Free agent E.J. Singler was signed on Wednesday, Oct. 21 after playing ball in Estonia last year and with the Idaho Stampede before that. Singler was waived the following day. Free agent guard Eric Atkins was signed on Sunday, Oct. 25 and played the 2014-2015 season in Greece. Phil Pressey was also acquired Sunday after the Portland Trail Blazers waived him two days previously. Atkins and Pressey were both waived on Monday, Oct. 26.

Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said it’s hard to make roster decisions, but knowing the players have opportunities to play for other teams helps.

“They’re always really difficult, and difficult on Dennis (Lindsey) and myself, and more difficult on the players, obviously,” Snyder said.

The Jazz have experimented with playing without a traditional point guard in the absence of injured Australian Dante Exum. Snyder said all of the players on the floor need to know the role of a point guard and different players will have opportunities to fill that role. He wants the team to get to a point where they can tag-team with each other.

Various players will have the opportunity to prove themselves as the fluid lineup is continually adjusted. It is possible different players will start different games. Forwards Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward, guards Burke and Burks and center Gobert will likely be key contributors but the efforts of players in off the bench needed, such as Hood and Booker.

List of current Utah Jazz roster players:

  • Trevor Booker: Forward
  • Trey Burke: Guard

  • Alec Burks: Guard

  • Dante Exum: Guard

  • Derrick Favors: Forward-Center

  • Rudy Gobert: Center

  • Gordon Hayward: Guard-Forward

  • Rodney Hood: Guard-Forward

  • Joe Ingles: Forward

  • Chris Johnson: Forward

  • Trey Lyles: Forward

  • Elijah Millsap: Guard-Forward

  • Raulzinho Neto: Guard

  • Tibor Pleiss: Center

  • Jeff Withey: Center

The Jazz open regular season play with a three-game road trip. They’ll play the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 5:30 p.m. MDT, the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, Oct. 30 at 5 p.m. MDT and the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, Oct. 31 at 5 p.m. MDT. The games will be televised on Root Sports and the radio broadcast can be found on The Zone Sports Network (97.5 FM and 1280 AM).

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