Las Vegas - There were plenty of things to like in Utah's 74-70 defeat to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Utah defended well. Rookie guard Dante Exum was at times sensational in his summer league debut. Rudy Gobert looked like a legitimate NBA big man. Malcolm Thomas exhibited electric athleticism, shot-blocking and rebounding.
But there was plenty not to like as well. Point guard Trey Burke struggled to gain separation off the dribble, and generally didn't look very good overall. The Jazz couldn't shoot, going 4-18 from 3-point range, with many of the misses coming off open looks. Utah missed 10 free-throws. And the Jazz couldn't protect an eight point fourth quarter lead.
Through it all, it was an uneven start to summer league for the Jazz. Yes, they played well. But yes, they could've played much better, especially down the stretch.
"I think we have to go back and look at the film at some stuff," Utah coach Quin Snyder said. "I thought we played very well defensively. But I thought we missed some open looks, and we had some guys get a little tired down the stretch. But I'm pleased with a lot of what we did."
Snyder makes some good points. He had to be happy with the ball movement and the execution of the offense - even if the payoff of made shots often eluded the Jazz. Exum was the best player on the floor for stretches. He proved himself capable of getting to the basket off the dribble. He finished at the rim. He displayed court vision that simply can't be taught, often sending the pro-Jazz crowd into a celebrated frenzy with some of his passes.
But like all rookies, Exum struggled in spots, and got noticeably winded on several occasions. He clearly needs to get stronger, and didn't knock down open looks outside of the paint, save for a game-tying three in the last two minutes.
"I tried to get the butterflies out, but I felt comfortable out there," Exum said.
Rodney Hood - Utah's second first round pick - scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds, showing athleticism, but going 3-13 from the field. Gobert had 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots. But he missed six free-throws and incurred a technical foul in the second half.
"I think everyone was a little excited to play," Gobert said. "We missed a lot of easy shots. I think we'll be better in the second game."
Utah faces off against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night.