The night started off well for the Utah Jazz in Denver against the Nuggets and they kept the game as close as they could, but their offense went cold in the second half, and the Nuggets would end up running away with the game, 117-101.
Lauri Markkanen came out scorching hot, giving the Jazz a 9-3 lead, but the Jazz would struggle to have consistently good offense for the rest of the game. The other player who wasn’t hit with a cold spell was Mike Conley, who continues to play great for the Jazz. Conley went 4/7 from the field, 4/5 from three with 5 assists in just 23 minutes. It’s clear the Jazz were trying not to overdo it with Conley, as they are on the front end of a back-to-back and aren’t looking to wear out their veteran point guard. There may also be other things going on in the background. This is now 3 games in a row where Conley has been in the low 20s in minutes. Are the Jazz trying to keep him fresh and healthy for a potential move?
Jordan Clarkson, who’s had a fantastic season so far, was hit by a cold spell and couldn’t find the bottom of the net. For the game, Clarkson shot 1/10 from the field and 0/7 from three. Clarkson has been a major cog in the Jazz matching that has gotten them their 4 wins so far this season. For him to struggle makes it really difficult for this Jazz team to overcome bad night from multiple other players.
There were other interesting moves tonight from Will Hardy that we haven’t seen before. The most interesting was that Ochai Agbaji got minutes tonight! These were Agbaji’s first meaningful minutes, and despite an understandable tentative start, he had some nice plays. He shot 4/7 for the game, but it was his baskets when things really counted that were exciting. Two times Agbaji cut to the rim and finished with impressive athleticism. That ability to play above the rim could be a game changer for him and his game. So much of succeeding in the NBA for a player is how well they can use their athleticism, and Agbaji showed that he has the functional athleticism that translates. We know he has a great stroke from three, so this might mean some more opportunity for the Jazz’s intriguing rookie.
Agbaji getting minutes was part of a slew of other young players getting time. Leandro Bolmaro got 15 minutes tonight also and showed some nice flashes of handling the ball and passing. The only issue with Bolmaro is he doesn’t appear to have a consistent jumper, and he passed up a couple of open threes to drive to the rim. That can work some of the time in the regular season, but it can catch up to you over time. If Bolmaro can show an ability to shoot the ball consistently, he could have a really nice career. If he can’t, it’s very hard to find a way to keep him on the floor.
All the available players on the Jazz got minutes tonight, but what’s interesting is that 10 players got minutes in non garbage time. The lineups were different all night as it appears Hardy is willing to put different rotations on the floor based on in-game needs and that the Jazz are on the front end of a back-to-back. It’s refreshing how fluid everything is for the Jazz. Clarkson normally plays in the 30s in minutes, and with his shot not falling Hardy went to other players. The other thing that’s interesting about this is it shows that Hardy is willing to play rookies. Agbaji would likely never see the floor last season, but this year it’s looking like he might start earning more minutes. It’s nice to see.
It’s a tough loss for Utah, and things won’t get easier tomorrow when they face the Memphis Grizzlies, but the signs we’re seeing from the players, and the coach, are very encouraging.