The Utah Jazz lost their 6th home game in a row, and to a division foe at that. The Denver Nuggets are now 9-8 after the win and look like a much more seasoned and constructed team. That's obvious as they aren't starting a crew that averages 23 years old, and back them up with a bench that's only 24. The Jazz played without Derrick Favors, who missed his first game of the season, who was out with flu-like symptoms. The intrepid Trevor Booker started in his place, moving Enes Kanter to center. So it was the legion of Denver's solid NBA players against a shorthanded Utah squad. (N.B. The Nuggets were without Randy Foye, which just means their defense is better.)
And it was a very exciting finish.
The Jazz and Nuggets know each other pretty well and our squad came out with energy and were leading for the majority of the first quarter. Trey Burke hit his first shot of the game (a three), Trevor Booker's activity yielded three early rebounds, and a helper, Alec Burks was aggressive but had three turn overs, and Gordon Hayward paired up with Enes Kanter to go 6-9 in their first stint. The tied turned when both teams went to their benches, and Denver went on a 6-0 run, and took the lead for almost good. The second quarter saw a mixed lineup of Gordon Hayward, Trevor Booker, Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood, and Trey Burke surrender a 24-5 lead, and 36 points in the quarter. The resounding chorus was "here we go again."
Quin Snyder, aka Murderface, was not a happy man, and rallied the troops at half. The Jazz went on 7-1 and 13-1 runs during the third quarter -- thanks to some solid off the bench play by Rudy Gobert, and inspiring play by Trey Burke, Alec Burks, and Gordon Hayward. Because I'm a homer, I'm going to point out that Alec Burks had a crazy layup and monster jam in short succession during the 13-1 run that helped bring the team back into it for good. The Jazz went into the fourth quarter at home being down by 6, in an 83-77 game that is almost anyone's.
Snyder went with Dante Exum, Alec Burks (then replaced midway by Rodney Hood), Gordon Hayward, Trevor Booker, and Rudy Gobert to start the fourth -- and they went on a 6-0 run to tie the game 83-83 on a crazy Hood to Gobert oop!
Brian Shaw called a time out, reloaded with Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, and Timofey Mozgov (his starters) and they went on a 7-0 run to pull ahead 90-83. It was a straight up dogfight the rest of the way where our guys, once down by 22, had fought so hard to make a game out of it.
Arron Afflalo (you may remember him getting ejected for throwing an elbow into Gordon Hayward's face a few seasons ago) tried to decapitate Alec Burks on a layup, and got ejected again with less than 6 to go in the game. (Somehow Denver got a point out of it because Jazz trainer Gary Briggs received a technical for trying to get on the court to assess a downed player.)
Too much Queen of Hearts for Afflalo.
Sadly, that did not fire up the Jazz as they should have as the next few trips down the court they settled for jumpers, which missed. With three minutes to go the Jazz had their last rally, and went on a 5-0 run to tie the game with less than 2 to play.
Somehow the finishing group of Ty Lawson, Gary Harris (MSU Rookie), Wilson Chandler, Darrell Arthur, and Timofey Mozgov were able to squeak out a win against Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Trevor Booker, and Rudy Gobert. If you want to be a (Tuesday) morning quarter back you can argue that perhaps Enes Kanter would have provided a sputtering offense with something else, as he was flirting with another 20 / 20 game. The rebuttal is that Kanter wouldn't have been able to co-exist on the floor with Gobert because neither of them can defend newly minted stretch big Darrell Aurthur.
Like all close games, there were some questionable calls by the refs (the tech on Briggs, I see both sides, you don't want escalation from the bench; the non-call hack on a Trey Burke layup that gave the ball back to Denver), but also some questionable on-court decisions by the team (accusations of "hero ball" from Trey Burke on a 'must make' shot, inability to inbounds the ball to Gordon Hayward under the basket, etc).
It was a very exciting game to watch, a game that is necessary for our team to move forwards. These are the battles you fight, down your best player, at home which galvanize your unites and builds trust between team mates.
You never root for the loss, but for me this is a team you can root for. They didn't give up, and the ball bounces a little differently, they win this.
- Gordon Hayward -- 25 points (7/18, 3/6, 8/8), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
- Alec Burks -- 22 points (7/15, 0/2, 8/10), 8 rebounds, 3 assists
- Trey Burke -- 18 points (7/13, 4/7, 0/0), 1 rebound, 8 assists (0 turn overs), 1 block
- Enes Kanter -- 17 points (8/19, 1/2), 15 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks
- Trevor Booker -- 6 points (3/7, 0/1), 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block
- Rudy Gobert -- 9 points (3/7, 3/6), 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block
I will point out that Dante Exum, Joe Ingles, and Rodney Hood didn't kill it in the box score, but they played very well during stretches. And this is what our team is about. Playing well in stretches. And then extending how long a stretch is. Eventually we'll play a complete game.
The Jazz are now 5-13, it's still not time to panic. And they play the Toronto Raptors at home on Wednesday (no DeMar DeRozan), and then the Orlando Magic at home on Friday. Sorry this is so late. I have a life occasionally.