I think we dodged a bullet there. I'm not taking anything away from the Nuggets, but they were without Carmelo and Billups tonight. The Jazz should have beat them pretty good tonight, especially being at home at playing the way they have been playing.
The Nuggets got into the lane all night and that has to concern you a bit. Whether it was Ty Lawson, the latest Jazz killer, Anthony Freakin' Carter, or Kenyon Martin, Denver was able to drive pretty easily. When the Jazz built their lead to 18, there were a number of factors that led to it. One of them was that they were cutting off the penetration and helping on picks. But after the first quarter, they couldn't stop them.
The other key factor in building an 18-point lead early was the Jazz getting layups, passing well, and taking shots in offensive rhythym. The Nuggets started their comeback early in the third. The Jazz got up 79-61 and as Boozer put it in his post-game interview, they got "jump-shot happy." That led to some fast break points on the other end. They closed to within 3 early in the fourth and put all of the fans into a panic.
Enter AK. As he's done pretty much all season and especially over this winning streak, he made a couple of plays to change the game and save the Jazz. After a Matthews' layup pushed the Jazz lead out to 5, 95-90, Andrei poked the ball out of Malik Allen's hands, cut behind him, and then raced up the court with a feed from Matthews for the two-handed dunk. On the next offensive possession, the Jazz were still up just 5 when a CJ three was off the mark. It was AK to the rescue again as he tipped the ball back up and in.
The clincher came with about 5 minutes to go in the game when AK blocked JR Smith's drive. After the block, the ball went to Millsap who found a streaking AK running up the right side. Andrei passed to Deron in the middle for a two-handed pump jam. That put the Jazz up 12 and that was pretty much it.
Deron summed it up best about AK, "He's getting steals at crucial times in the game, blocking shots, he's playing like an all-star."
The Jazz held the Nuggets to just 6 FGs in the fourth quarter and just 4 after the Carter dunk that got Denver to within 3. Utah was able to pull away by making the Nuggets take jumpers in that fourth quarter. From that Carter dunk at the 11:18 mark, Denver didn't make a FG for about 5 1/2 minutes. We finally started getting some boards off of those long jumpers and convert on the other end. Check out the Nuggets' possessions after that Carter shot,
Offensive foul (TO)
Blocked by AK
Layup after missed layup
JR Smith blocked by Deron
Missed 3 followed by missed jumper
Made running jumper
There's a lot of missed jumpers in there. Denver did have four offensive boards in there or the final score might have been a little lower for the Nuggs.
A win is a win is a win though. They'll take it.
Ty Lawson continues to stick it to the Jazz. He did again tonight with 25 point and getting 11 trips to the line. He and Flynn from Minnesota give Deron fits. They're very quick and low to the ground. Hope we don't see Denver come playoff time.
For the actual numbers for tonight, Deron and AK both had 22. Andrei filled up the box again with 4 boards, 3 assists, and 5 steals. Freakin' AK. DWill had 9 assists out of the team's 27.
Boozer picked up right where he left off with another 19 & 13 including a nice block in the first. Millsap came in and played quite a bit with Boozer because of foul trouble with Memo early. The heir-apparent had 16 & 6 of his own in just 26 minutes.
Something has to be said about Millsap and foul calls. He's actually fouling at the lowest rate of his career this season. But there are are 2-3 instances a game where he gets called for a BS foul on D and then gets hacked in the head, face, or on his arms and doesn't get a call. If you're not a Jazz fan, you may think that I'm just being a homer on this one. But it's absolutely true and remarkable how little love he gets from the refs. I'm just looking for consistency at this point. It's to the extremes on both ends and I seriously don't know how he hasn't snapped at a ref; probably because he was raised better than that. He needs to set up a punching bag in his basement and paint Dick Bavetta's face on it. Or David Stern.
Finally, what's up with the DNP-CD for Korver again? On a night where Matthews and CJ are struggling, we don't see any PT for Korver? I don't know if I've actually seen this before, but is there a trade in the works? Do they not want to risk him getting hurt? Sloan has had the right people on the floor lately so I'll give him a pass for now on this, but it's truly weird that in a game like this we didn't see KK.
My play of the night wasn't the AK to Deron dunk. It wasn't the Ronnie Price follow-up jam. It was in the third following a flagrant foul by Joey Graham on Ronnie B. Ronnie was going up for the dunk/layup and Graham didn't make a play on the ball and pushed Brewer in the chest causing him to fall on his back. After Ronnie made just 1 of 2, the Jazz ran a play where Deron set a pick on Graham and put a forearm/elbow into his back and put him on the ground. Deron walked the other way as soon as the whistle blew. It was a payback foul. Great to see teammates stick up for each other like that. If Graham hadn't just fouled AK hard as well 2 minutes earlier, maybe we don't see that.
I love that this team seems to be coming together and has everyone's backs. We simply havent' seen this in year's past for whatever reason. They're huddling up and enjoying each other's successes. Another example is when AK had his legs taken out after a three-point attempt and no call was made. Boozer was over there to check on him and see how he was. It's little things like that that have changed this team.
So, two games back and two games left before the break. Not too bad after the start we had.
- Denver Stiffs
On whether it’s tough to play the Jazz with their physical style of play
"Yeah, I mean, they’re a physical team, and after battling with L.A. last night, we definitely had to come in and play these guys – especially in their arena. I mean, their fans, you’ve got to give them credit too. They really know how to talk trash. But I mean, we just couldn’t let that affect us. We tried to go out there, and we tried to make a comeback at the end, and it was just a little too late."