Utah Jazz 106 @ Denver Nuggets 96
The Utah Jazz overcame the schedule, Denver’s recent domination of teams playing on their home court on the second night of a back-to-back, and a -19 free throw attempt disparity to give the Nuggets their 2nd home loss of the season. It was also the Utah Jazz’ second road win of the season. It was a close game throughout the first half as the Jazz were only down by 1 after the 1st quarter, and actually tied at 48-48 all at halftime. Denver wants to play at a high pace at home, but faced a challenge from the Jazz, as Utah out rebounded the Nuggets. As a result, the Jazz elected to slow the tempo down and grind this game out.
Slowing Denver’s dynamic attack and forcing them to create in a half court set somewhat neutralized the #2 team in the league in points per game, who were also the #1 team in the league in field goal % (FG%) coming into tonight’s match-up. The Jazz held the Nuggets (before tonight, a 104.8 ppg / 49.5 fg% team) to a measly 96 points off of 42.7 fg% shooting. Denver still got to the line a ton, they always have against the Jazz despite no longer having media darlings Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony on the team; because no matter what Utah "always" fouls. Denver had a +8 advantage against the Jazz in fouls called, yet went to the line +19 more times. Not all fouls the Jazz committed were shooting fouls, so yeah . . . home cooking. Utah gets everything in the paint, but only went to the stripe 20 times. (grumble grumble)
The Jazz did not enjoy the balanced scoring of the Nuggets (who had six guys score 8 or more points), but they didn’t need it when Paul Millsap activated "Thrillsap" mode where he created his own shot off the dribble, or from a post up – regardless of the defender. Paul absolutely beasted, shooting 12/19 on his way to 26 points (63.2 fg%, 1.37 points per shot). He was super efficient, and unstoppable – at one point in the second half he scored 14 straight points. He finished with yet another double double (adding 12 rebounds), 3 assists, and a steal and a block. He was joined in the double double VIP room by Al Jefferson, who had 18 and 12, with 2 blocks and 1 very nifty assist. Big Al played vastly improved defense in the paint, and while his shot got away from him, he started very hot – in effect, keeping the Jazz in the game in the first half by himself. It was an admirable performance by our bigs – as you may remember they were the only true advantages we had against the Nuggets.
Raja Bell continued his stellar turn around in play; Devin Harris had 10 points and 7 assists; and Gordon Hayward tallied 19 big ones, shooting 53.8 fg%. Combined the rest of our starters finished with 36 points – that’s 12 points apiece if you do the math. That is fantastic, especially compared to what we’ve so far gotten from our non-Big starters earlier this season.
Bereft of Josh Howard (quadriceps), and then later in the game Derrick Favors (ankle), the Jazz bench was looking increasingly thin. Already banged up Earl Watson had to step up, and the one-time Denver Nugget did with 4 points (perfect shooting) and 7 assists. Colorado alumni Alec Burks came off the bench and provided some acrobatic finishes, and scoring punch – 10 points in 14 minutes off of only 7 shots. He has a knack for getting to the line. The only other really notable bench performance came from C.J. Miles who did a lot of the right stuff that doesn’t show up on box scores, forcing turnovers, taking charges, and making good passes in the flow of the offense (3 assists). Ultimately, this was a game I did not think the Jazz would win. They showed a lot of heart and won despite several disadvantages. Bravo Jazz. Bravo!