Sexton, George Push Jazz To Win Over Blazers

Dec 2, 2023, 11:18 PM

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SALT LAKE CITY – Collin Sexton and Keyonte George combined for 45 points as the Utah Jazz downed the Portland Trail Blazers in overtime.

Shaedon Sharpe and Malcolm Brogdon scored 25 each for the Trail Blazers but snapped their two-game winning streak with a loss in Utah.

With the win the Jazz moved to 7-13 on the season.

Jazz Collins Takes Step In Right Direction Vs. Blazers

The John Collins experiment in Utah has seen its fair share of pluses and negatives.

Collins has scored in double-digits in 19 of his 20 outings with the Jazz, and has seen his three-point shooting reach a new career-high at 41 percent.

His negatives include some concerningly poor plus-minus numbers, an awkward fit at times in the starting lineup, and a career-low 0.8 assists per game average.

However, against the Trail Blazers, Collins had one of his more productive outings scoring 17 points, grabbing nine rebounds, blocking three shots, and perhaps most importantly, dishing out three assists.

“He’s understanding our system better and better,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said of Collins. “I think he’s understanding the fit with his teammates a little bit better each day.”

Finding the ideal role for Collins will be a learning process as Lauri Markkanen and Kelly Olynyk return from injury. The Jazz have also found success defensively with Omer Yurtseven on the floor, which will require more adjustments to the frontcourt.

If Collins can prove he can do more than score on the offensive end, he can still be a valuable player for the Jazz.

“Today was definitely a step in the right direction as far as moving the ball,” Hardy said of Collins.

Taylor Hendricks Sees First Real NBA Minutes

With Lauri Markkanen and Kelly Olynyk missing the game with injuries, the Jazz promoted Taylor Hendricks from the G League and gave him the first real rotation minutes of his career.

The rookie finished with five points, two rebounds, and two blocks, but shot just 2-7 from the floor, and 1-4 from the three-point line in 18 minutes.

With Hendricks making first appearance with the Jazz since the season opener on October 25, Hardy offered an insightful look at what rookies can be taught in the G League, and what can only be learned in the NBA.

“The G League is really an opportunity for them to start to understand the NBA game in terms of the pace of play the spacing,” Hardy said. “It’s very different than playing in college.”

Hendricks has had different roles with the Salt Lake City Stars than they he in their freshman season at Central Florida, getting far more face-up opportunities on the perimeter versus primarily playing with his back to the basket as a center.

“My comfort level is pretty high with that,” Hendricks said of his new role. “It’s pretty much all I’ve been doing since I’ve gotten to Utah. So, I’m pretty comfortable with that.”

While Hendricks may be comfortable adjusting to his more perimeter-oriented game in the G League, some things can’t be learned until he gets more repos in the NBA.

“The biggest adjustment for guys, like Ochai [Agbaji] last year, is that every position [in the NBA] is a couple of inches taller than they are in the G League,” Hardy cautioned.

“So that takes an adjustment because the decisions that you make have to be that much quicker when you’re on offense — those gaps and windows are closing a little bit faster. And on defense, you have to be much sharper in your anticipation, because guys can just play over the top of you if you’re late. So that part you can never replicate.”

Nightly Awards: Jazz vs. Trail Blazers

The “The Rookie Has It” Award:

Goes to Keyonte George who had the best game of his career scoring 21 points, grabbing six rebounds, and handing out six assists.

George has had plenty of other strong moments throughout his rookie season to provide confidence that he’s a bona fide NBA player, but he took it to another level against Portland.

After his career-worst 4-17 shooting night against the Minnesota Trail Blazers on Thursday, George didn’t shy away from his scoring responsibilities knocking down an improved 7-17 from the floor, despite shooting just 1-8 from three.

I’m a huge believer in the idea that rookies, given the opportunity, should have breakout games in their first seasons in the NBA simply because their raw talent accidentally shines through.

This wasn’t a breakout game, and it was no accident, but it’s a taste of what is to come.

The “Baptized Twice On A Saturday” Award:

Goes to Walker Kessler who was on the wrong end of back-to-back poster dunks in the fourth quarter against Portland.

First, known dunker Shaedon Sharpe climbed the sophomore shot blocker for an awesome throwdown.

Then, rookie Toumani Camara rose up and hammered on Kessler less than a minute later.

Kessler had a fine night scoring 12 points and grabbing eight rebounds on a perfect 6-6 shooting, but he won’t have fond memories of this game.

Jazz Next Broadcast

The Jazz will face the Mavericks on Wednesday at 6:30 pm MST in Dallas. The game will be televised on KJZZ, streamed on Jazz+, and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone.

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Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Sexton, George Push Jazz To Win Over Blazers