This Utah Jazz team has come alive. A week ago, Utah was set to begin their most brutal stretch of the season, with a road trip to Boston, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee, then returning home to face the Denver Nuggets. Going 0-4 in that stretch seemed like a very realistic possibility.
Here we are at the end of those four games. The Jazz went 3-1. After the Celtics dominated them, Utah returned with a vengeance and won each of the following three games by double-digits.
Despite being at home, the game against the Nuggets should have been the toughest challenge. Denver’s stars were healthy, and the team had been rolling, winning eight of their last ten games. To start the game, the Jazz missed their first shot, and Nikola Jokic grabbed the rebound with one hand and, in one motion, threw a touchdown pass to the other end of the court for a layup.
That 2-0 lead was the last lead Denver would enjoy all game.
The Jazz had a balanced effort all night, with big plays from every player. Collin Sexton attacked the basket. John Collins hit threes. Kris Dunn smothered the Nuggets guards. After the first quarter, Utah was up by nine. Nikola Jokic tried to keep the Nuggets in the game alone but didn’t get much help. The Jazz quickly built a double-digit lead and never looked back. They led by 18 at the half.
The Jazz led by as much as 25, led by Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson, but the Nuggets kept coming back to keep the game at least within a big run of turning around. Jokic put up a hyper-efficient 27 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. Thanks in large part to Kris Dunn’s ever-persistent defense, the Jazz managed to keep Jamal Murray to only 17 points on 15 shots. Michael Porter Jr. was held to an abysmal five points on nine shots. This Utah Jazz defense has figured some things out.
Despite a late run from Denver’s third-string players, the Jazz held on to a double-digit lead and won the game 124-111.
Player of the game
Jordan Clarkson had one of the best games of his career. While he’s had plenty of games with more points, he’s rarely been in such control, scoring efficiently, creating for teammates, and even impacting defense. Clarkson had 27 points, nine assists, and shot 12-19 from the field.
- Lauri Markkanen: 26 points (6-13 FG, 2-5 3P), 12 rebounds, one block, 12-12 FT
- Collin Sexton: 22 points (8-14 FG, 2-4 3P), four assists, one steal, one block
- John Collins: 15 points (6-10 FG, 2-4 3P), six rebounds, three assists
The Jazz are now a half-game behind 10th place in the Western Conference and only one game behind 8th.
This game was the start of a six-game home stand. Utah will next host the Toronto Raptors on Friday, January 12.