Even though the score might look like it with a 110-102 final, the Utah Jazz were impressive against the defending champion Denver Nuggets.
Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray showed off their winning formula and it was too much for the Jazz to overcome. Their offense this season has been a buzzsaw and has been unstoppable as they go to 4-0 on the season and look every bit the champions of the league. Nikola Jokic had a triple-double on 27/10/11 and looked nearly impossible to start, but what’s new? Jamal Murray also had a great night with 18 points and 14 assists and it looks like he may be on his way to his first all-star bid.
So with how well the Nuggets looked, is there any reason to be happy about the performance from the Jazz? Yes! Let’s talk about some of those things.
Lauri Markkanen looked great again
The guard play for Utah has been incredibly bad this season. Talen Horton-Tucker, Collin Sexton, and Jordan Clarkson have all had stints as the starting guards for this Jazz team and it’s been a rough go to start the year. There are a lot of plays where it looks like the Jazz offense is broken and they’re scoring out of chaos. Despite that, Markkanen has still found ways to be a great scorer. The Jazz’s guards are going to improve this season and things will likely get easier for Markkanen. It’s safe to assume he is about to have a career year.
Walker Kessler showed some life
Kessler has struggled to start the year, and a lot of it looks mental. He’s been playing around the 20 mpg mark the last three games, so to see him have 29 minutes tonight is a great sign. He also put up 22 points and 13 rebounds. As the guard play improves things for Markkanen, we should see the same thing for Kessler as the season progresses. He’s not getting easy looks inside and it’s got to be frustrating not to be able to turn things around. As he gets more touches and time, there’s no reason to believe he can’t get back to last season’s form. Tonight showed he’s already on his way there, he just needs to play with more juice.
John Collins has looked like a steal
Another nice night for John Collins, who comes out of this one with 16 points and 9 rebounds. It’s already looking like the Jazz are getting the good John Collins they hoped for. In Atlanta, a lot of Collins’ value was if he was knocking down his spot up threes with Trae Young. In Utah, he’s being allowed to impact the game in a variety of ways. He’s getting the ball multiple times in the post, he’s being allowed to initiate a little at the top of the key, and things like that are allowing him to do more with the ball than simply shoot threes and have the occasional roll. He’s also looking like a plus defender at times. All of these amount to the Jazz having found a solid starter at the 4.
Keyonte George was good on defense
Yes, Jamal Murray had a nice night with 18 points and 14 assists, but he shot 7/19 from the field and there were multiple misses attributed to Keyonte George’s one-on-one defense against him. George got into his shirt and guarded with his chest and forced misses, along with forcing Murray to pass out. This is definitely something to watch but it’s looking like the defensive worries with George might be a little overblown.