Emptyin’ the Noggin — Jazz lose opening game to Blazers

Blazers win, 113-104. Damian Lillard had 39 points and CJ McCollum had 25. Jazz were led by Joe Johnson’s 29 and Rodney Hood’s 26.

• All of the positive things you wanted to see from the Jazz tonight existed. Joe Johnson took over the game in the third quarter and George Hill lead the team terrifically in the first half.

• Second-year starters Rodney Hood and Rudy Gobert both looked much better than they did a year ago. Rodney shot it well, got to the line early with aggressive drives to the basket. Rudy Gobert had a 12 point and 14 rebound game.

• The Jazz starters were terrific. They outscored the Blazers 25-14 in the first half of the game and yet the Jazz were down by 8 at the half. The injuries to Hayward, Favors and Burks really showed when the Jazz went to the bench.

• In the pregame show, I said that I was most interested to see if the Jazz could put out 48 minutes of offense and the answer was “no.” The offense went completely dead from the end of the first quarter into the mid part of the second quarter. When the same thing happened in the second half, Quin went back to the starters for the final 9 minutes of the game. It meant major minutes for three starters: Gobert, who played 41 minutes, Hood played 38 minutes and Hill, 39.

• The game was tied at 99 with 5:00 minutes left and the Jazz got stagnant offensively and couldn’t get the looks they had earlier in the game. The Blazers, lead by Damian Lillard’s brilliance, took over the game. Late game losses have been an issue for the Jazz the last two years and it will be interesting to see if the Jazz can fight through them this year.

• The third quarter was Joe Johnson’s quarter. The Jazz started running him off picks that the Blazers switched and he was guarded by Lillard whom Johnson abused. The Blazers won’t leave three point shooters, so Johnson went to work and pounded it inside. He finished with 27 second-half points, which is the fourth most second-half points he has ever scored in a game. Sixteen years and this was his 4th best second half in scoring.

• George Hill was really good early in the game. The Jazz were running Hill off of Gobert picks, and when the Blazers didn’t switch and hung Plumlee back in the lane, Hill had room to work inside the midrange and make shots. He finished 7 of 18, but missed his final 5 shots.

• This was a great game. The Jazz started by hitting their first 6 shots. The Blazers were hot as well. Neither team missed a free throw. The game featured great ball movement, lots of flow, touch passes, back door cuts. Coaching moves.

• Blazers were the number one team in the NBA out of sideline out of bounds last year and tonight averaged 1.25 pts per sideline out of bounds.

• Jazz bench: Dante Exum -18 in 8 minutes; Jeff Withey -11 in 4 minutes Joe Ingles -9 in 14 minutes; Trey Lyles -11 in 18 minutes; Shelvin Mack -9 in 15 minutes.

• Damian Lillard was dominant. He finished with 16 fourtth quarter points and 39 for the game. His ability to finish at the rim with Gobert in the area is unequaled in the league. He said he wants to be an MVP and tonight, he showed the ability to do exactly that. He also added 9 rebound and 6 assists. Lillard was 7 of 8 within 5 feet of the basket.

• Noah Vonleh had an absurd night for the Blazers, hitting 4 outside shots.

• Blazers did a lot of really cool game operations tonight. Every fan got a red Blazers shirt and a bracelet that was synched to game operations and flashed during different moments of the game.

• Overall, the Blazers’ offense was unreal. They hit 13 of 19 from three. They had an EFG% of 61%. They went 22 of 22 from the line. Yet, the Jazz were still in the game. That is remarkable. Blazers won their league-record 16th straight home opener.