The Denver Nuggets had a historically good 79-point first half against the Utah Jazz and beat them easily 128-117.
Nikola Jokic was the story of this game. Jokic absolutely handled Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors to the tune of 47 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals in a dominating performance.
In the first half it wasn’t just Jokic, as a team the Nuggets shot 15/17 from three in the first half and never looked back. People will look at that and wonder what the Jazz were doing and the answer is not much. Utah’s contests against the three was half-hearted at best in the first half and the Nuggets found a rhythm and confidence that they seem to find every time they play Utah.
And maybe that’s the issue. Mike Malone has definitely figured some things with Quin Snyder out. There is just very little the Jazz do on the defensive end against the Nuggets that works. And Mike Malone also seems to know what the Jazz will do offensively and it’s enough to slow the Jazz to the point the Nuggets keep all of these close, and typically win them.
Snyder appeared to try having Gobert play off of Jokic at times to roam and help but it didn’t work and Jokic roasted what felt like the entire Jazz team. When Gobert was on Jokic it didn’t make much difference, either. So maybe there aren’t any answers here.
One thing is for sure, Gobert and Favors need to evolve on their defense of Jokic. Gobert’s contests of Jokic threes are just not good enough. Gobert puts his hand up to guard a Jokic 3-pointer but it’s nowhere near close enough to impact Jokic’s rhythm or shot and he gets it off with ease. At this point Jokic shoots that show knowing that Gobert is not going to close out enough to affect it. The result? Jokic shot 4/4 from 3. It’s too easy. Now, tonight Jokic hit a couple tough ones on Favors but even Favors could stand to either run him off the line or just get up on him more. Here’s a look at each Jokic three and you can see a trend. He’s shooting against the Jazz with just so much confidence and everything revolves around ability to shoot the ball.
But maybe this is asking too much of Favors and Gobert. Jokic has every advantage in these matchups now with his 3-point shot falling. Utah needs to change how they guard him in some way. Can they do a prevent defense in some way? Can they try Juwan Morgan for stretches? Something?
Adjustments need to be made and asking only the players to do it doesn’t seem fair.
The other disappointing thing in this game was the play of Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell for the game was 3/12 from the field (with a nice 3/8 from three) 3 assists, 1 rebound and 5 turnovers. That turnover ratio for Mitchell has to improve. If you’re having an off shooting night and have a 3/5 assist to turnover ratio, you’re killing your team on the offensive end. Mitchell’s defense seems to be on the uptick lately but it’s not good enough to overcome that type of performance on offense.
We should give Mitchell the benefit of the doubt with this performance, he is coming off a concussion after all. But there have been multiple outings like this for Mitchell this year. With him being the Jazz’s best offensive weapon, if they want to get anywhere this year they need him to be the catalyst, not the setback.
If there was a bright spot in this game it was the play of Bojan Bogdanovic. It’s now two games in a row that Bogdanovic has been hitting shots at a high clip. Tonight Bogdanovic scored 29 points and shot 5/10 from three and took 10 free throws. That’s now two monster games from Bogdanovic who can be that x-factor on offense for Utah to get them over the hump in the playoffs.