If anyone had any doubts about Utah after their disappointing loss in Los Angeles on Sunday night ... well ... you shouldn’t anymore. The Utah Jazz faced a Denver Nuggets team who had all their guys healthy and ready to roll and controlled the game from the get go. Donovan Mitchell, a former Denver Nugget for the period of a few minutes, tied his career high of 46 points as the Utah Jazz sent a message to the top teams in the Western Conference. The Utah Jazz are ready for the playoffs and are going to be a tough out for any top team whether it be Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, or the Denver Nuggets. This 118-108 win was Utah’s 50th of the season. The last time the Utah Jazz had 50 wins was when they were led by
Joe Johnson Gordon Hayward in 2016-2017.
Donovan Mitchell said after the game as he was smiling, “This is the first time I’ve smiled all game. I came in with a mentality to just attack. We had a disappointed loss against Los Angeles and I wanted to come in here and just attack.” And attack he did. He got to the line a career high 16 times and made 13 of them. He was 4 points away from joining an elite club of Jazz players—Karl Malone, Pete Maravich, Adrian Dantley, and Truck Robinson—to score 50 points in a game. Donovan Mitchell also would have become the youngest Jazz player to score 50 points in a game and first one to do so in only his second season in the league.
Donovan Mitchell was slicing and dicing out there and looks focused for the playoffs. Donovan Mitchell won’t be shellshocked this year in the big games and that bodes well for Utah.
If there was any NBA voter out there who had any doubts about Rudy Gobert as the Defensive Player of the Year and an All-NBA player, this game sure put those doubts to rest. Rudy Gobert faced the center who most likely will end up as a 1st team All-NBA Center, Nikola Jokic, and frustrated the hell out of him. Jokic would end up finishing the game with 2 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, and fouling out early in the 4th while only playing 16 minutes in the game. The Denver Nuggets starters all had a +/- of -12 or worse and coincidentally most of them were on the floor at the same time as Rudy Gobert. Hmmmmmmmmm....
Rudy Gobert—ya know, the guy who CaN’t PlAy OfFeNsE—was 7 of 12 from the field and got to the line 9 times. He finished with 20 points 20 rebounds, 1 steal, and 2 blocks and a +/- of +26. He also had this move which if he continues to improve, look out, Utah may have found their new point guard.
Meanwhile for Denver, it did appear they were testing their starters against Utah, but weren’t looking to go all in if things were not going their way. And they didn’t. Only one starter—Jamal Murray—played more than 21 minutes in this game. The rest of the starters were done after only short stints. While they were in the game, however, they got their butts handed to them. If this was to see if they were ready for the playoffs ... they frankly were not.
In their absence, Malik Beasley and Monte Morris had big games. That does bode well for Denver if their bench guys are ready to step up like that.
On a more frustrating note, Denver’s tank job on Sunday to lose in the final minutes to the Trail Blazers and their loss to Utah tonight actually may have paid off. Utah’s altruistic nature of playing the right way and respecting the game was used against them. The Houston Rockets just lost their last game of the season to the Oklahoma City Thunder. If the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Los Angeles Lakers tonight and come out victorious against the Sacramento Kings tomorrow, they secure the #3 seed. Yeah ... just let that idea melt over you like a spoiled butter. I want to hurl.
Notes and Takeaways
You’re now a Lakers fan. If the Lakers lose, you’re now a Kings fan. You want to avoid Houston? That’s the rules. Sorry, but them’s the rules.
The NBA could fix this seeding BS right away by allowing the top four teams in each conference to get to select their opponent. Top eight teams get in and teams are not rewarded for losing. If the NBA doesn’t like teams being rewarded for intentionally losing in the NBA Lottery then it’s a natural extension to get rid of that same problem for seeding. If a team like Utah is trying not to cheat the game and the fans that attend those games, but still gets cheated, you got a problem. Fix it, NBA.
Derrick Favors is a beast. He played only 22 minutes but amassed 16 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal. If this Derrick Favors is available every game in the playoffs, Utah’s going to be a problem.