Considering the Jazz scored the first 15 points of the game, led 44-13 after one quarter, had 75 points by halftime, and went on to a 130-72 win that was only that close because the second-half minutes were dominated by the reserves, it’s important to remember some important factors about Saturday’s preseason opener against the Perth Wildcats of Australia’s National Basketball League.
Namely, it’s preseason … and they were playing the Perth Wildcats.
So, yeah, throw a big ol' asterisk next to any big-picture takeaway you’re inclined to from this game. Or at least take it with a sizable grain of salt.
That said …
“It was good to not play against ourselves. It was fun. Going out there, it seemed a lot easier for us this year than last year because of the year that we had," second-year guard Donovan Mitchell — who totaled nine points, four rebounds and four assists in 21 subdued minutes — said afterward. "We’ve been playing really well throughout training camp, so for us to play as well as we did is a good sign.”
There were plenty of good signs on Saturday, actually, though whether they stick remains the key question.
Rookie guard Grayson Allen ignited the Vivint Smart Home Arena faithful by making his first five shots, including four 3-pointers, en route to 14 first-half points. (He finished with a game-high 19.) Throughout, he demonstrated the skills that have impressed his teammates, including not only a quick release, but also the ability to locate and drift into open spaces, and to fire it up without delay or remorse.
“[I was] a lot more comfortable after the first three went down,” Allen said. “… I didn’t really have any expectations tonight except just playing, getting that first preseason game out of the way and getting some of the nerves out, and I think I did that. Thankfully, some shots fell.”
Coach Quin Snyder was happy to see the first-rounder from Duke take advantage of his opportunities.
“For our whole team, that’s been a point of emphasis. We wanna find good shots, and we want to look for opportunities to take those shots. I think his shots were good shots," Snyder said. "… Guys were finding each other and they didn’t hesitate.”
Along those lines, Alec Burks — who often found himself buried on the wing depth chart last season, but whose work ethic has stood out in camp this year — was one of two subs to check in first Saturday and was aggressively efficient, both from behind the line and in driving to the hoop. He finished with 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range.
Rudy Gobert was dominant, a man among … well, smaller and less-talented other men. He scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds in — mercifully for Perth — just over 15 minutes, his sole miscue of the evening coming by way of an airballed free throw.
And, at least early in the game, the team demonstrated more willingness to push the pace after a rebound for fast-break opportunities. While that didn’t carry over to the second half, they still finished with a 28-5 advantage there.
Dante Exum, meanwhile, remains an up-and-down work in progress. While the point guard did put his improved court vision on display, finishing with six assists, he hardly imposed his will on potential scoring opportunities, rarely looking for his own shot, and totaling just three points on 1-for-3 shooting.
The mismatch — Perth was further hindered by missing five usual players, including captain and six-time NBL “Best Defensive Player” Damian Martin — included Utah shooting 54.2 percent from the field to the Wildcats' 27.1 percent, outshooting Perth on 3s by a 42.1 percent to 16.7 margin, outrebounding them 60-41, and totaling 32 assists to Perth’s 12.
Former Jazz guard Bryce Cotton led the Wildcats with 14 points, albeit on 4-for-16 shooting.
Snyder, searching postgame for something negative to say about the performance, pointed out, “They had some open looks early — we were fortunate they didn’t make ’em,” though he did concede that, overall, “We defended well. … I thought we were able to capitalize on some of the stops we got.”
The team’s next preseason game is sure to pose a tougher test, considering it comes against the Kawhi Leonard-led Toronto Raptors on Tuesday.
JAZZ 130, PERTH WILDCATS 72
• Rookie Grayson Allen hits his first five shots, including four 3-pointers, to lead the Jazz with 19 points.
• Alec Burks comes off the bench to score 18 points, while center Rudy Robert takes advantage of undersized opponents to total 14 points and nine rebounds in just 15 minutes.
• The Jazz lead 44-13 after the first quarter, have 75 points by halftime, and 100 going into the fourth quarter.