Did Utah Win? 39th Edition: Jazz 13-piece Nuggets
Welcome to the Lazy Utahn’s recap of the most recent Utah Jazz game. Do you want to talk to your friends about the game, impress them with cool stats, and act like you watch all 82 games like a true die hard even if you didn’t catch the big game last night? We got you covered in this simplistic breakdown of each topic that may arise from the latest Utah Jazz showdown.
Did Utah win?
The Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz were two of the hottest teams in the association going into last nights contest.
Both were 8-2 in their last ten games and red hot.
When the dust settled last night, the Jazz did their best Kesha impression by remaining hot and dangerous whereas Denver went the way of the Zac Brown Band and got stuck in colder weather.
With a final score of 124-111, the Jazz advanced to 19-20 on the season after dispatching the defending champs.
The final score itself is misleading as the Jazz actually dominated this game in multiple facets.
The Nuggets were outmatched most the night and trailed Utah for more than the majority of the game.
The Jazz have now won 9 of their last 11 now and became the very first team this year to take down Denver while possessing a losing record.
That losing record may not be for long as the Jazz still have five upcoming home games on the docket and are only 1 game below .500.
Utah can be found 11th in the West still, but only a half game behind Houston and the Lakers for the 9th spot, and only 1 game behind the 8th seeded Suns.
We Beat the defending champs! Hang the banner!
I sense slight sarcasm in that statement, but seriously this feels like a celebration worthy moment for Jazz nation.
This team, once with a 7-16 record, has rediscovered the moxy that made them so fun and enjoyable at times last year, yet this year’s success seems more sustainable.
It required a rough start, some individual sacrifices (the benching of Talen Horton-Tucker) and major lineup tinkering, but you have to tip your cap to Will Hardy.
Instead of trying to “tough it out” with “his guys”, Hardy made some tough choices. Reinsert Kris Dunn, start Collin Sexton, move John Collins to the 5, bring Jordan Clarkson off the bench and the list goes on.
As Hardy has tinkered, the team has gotten not only more competitive but more confident.
And even in recent success situations, Hardy isn’t done coaching, evident by his disappointment in the defense last night while possessing a 21-point lead.
The current lineups play into each players strength and allow not only the team but each individual player to impact the game.
Hardy has found balance, not only in the starting lineup, but the secondary unit as well, the Jazz are the same team for a full ball game and that makes all the difference.
Add to the fact that the rest of league hasn’t fully grasped the concept that Utah has turned the corner evident here by DeAndre Jordan’s comments:
And you have a feel-good story coming out of Salt Lake City.
The biggest thing to look at as the season rolls on with renewed energy is the defense.
Utah’s defense has never been accused of being great, but as of now they’ve gone three straight games without giving up more than 116.
That doesn’t sound impressive, but the Jazz have given up more than 116 points 20 times out of 39 games this year, or more than half the time.
This three-game run of 116 or less has happened against Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Denver and although only the Nuggets have been full strength, you can count it as impressive.
I'll be more interested to see how the defense looks in lesser matchups such as Toronto in the near future.
The strength of the team is the team, makes sense. What players have benefited the most?
Everyone not named Talen Horton-Tucker has benefited from these recent games.
Jordan Clarkson and Lauri Markkanen have been balling out without feeling like they have to be solely responsible for the entirety of the offense.
Kris Dunn and Collin Sexton have been badgering guys defensively on the perimeter (see Jamal Murray’s 17 points on 15 shots)
Sexton, Clarkson, George have all played within their means by being aggressive but not overly so, the assist numbers continue to rise alongside the efficiency of shot selection.
Collins at the 5 has been fruitful, while using Walker Kessler and Kelly Olynyk as big rotation pieces have been beneficial for all parties.
As far as individual stats go, every Jazz starter was in + territory.
Lauri Markkanen supplied the points for the starting unit with 26 on 13 shots. He was 2/5 from deep and got to the stripe a fantastic 12 times. He hit all 12 of them.
Lauri seemed more confident running the offense, dribbling in and through traffic and simply getting downhill.
Lauri is typically applauded for his ability to get buckets within the offense itself, but watching him unfurl as a potential creator/ attacker will only add to the All-star’s performance.
Markkanen has scored more than 20 points in all but 8 games this season and snagged 10 or more rebounds in 12 of his 29 games. He had 12 boards last night.
John Collins continued to look consistently good in his 24-minute role with 15 points, two knocked down three’s, with 6 boards, 3 assists, and a steal with only one turnover.
Collins seems to have settled in with the rest of the squad, especially at the Center spot and now the vibes around John the Baptist are changing.
Being impactful as he has been offensively, and then flashing some great defensive chops against Jokic last night prove that maybe us Jazz fans were too harsh too soon.
Collin Sexton played 21 minutes and had 21 points. Boom, that's it, that’s the story.
4 assist, 1 turnover, 14 shots, amazing defense and hustle as per usual these days.
The young bull has been seriously good, and if this play continues, Utah could be looking at another “untouchable” aspect of who the Jazz are looking to build with.
For the 2nd straight game, Kris Dunn took 2 shots, 1 being a three, hit them both, and then just played fantastic defense.
What else could you want? He’s not the scorer or rebounder or block man, but he’s the key cog that makes everyone else run smoothly and may be the best in-season signing Utah has ever made.
Jordan Clarkson was of course the dude off the bench leading all scorers (tying with Jokic) with 27 points. JC shot 63 percent from the field, went 3/8 from outside and dished 9 assists to 3 turnovers.
Clarkson leads the NBA in points per game off the bench this year, despite starting 19 games before the switch.
In Clarkson’s 9 games as a returned sixth man, JC is putting up 18.9 PPG, 5.7 Assists and 4.4 rebounds.
Enjoy his 11,000th point in the association:
The backup big men in Kelly Olynyk (9 points) and Walker Kessler (8 points) combined to go 8/9 from the field for 17 points.
Olynyk also recorded 5 assists and 2 steals in his time.
Keyonte George didn’t score in bunches and only had 6 points on 7 shots, but found a way to be productive with a +7 notching 3 dimes.
Ochai Agbaji didn’t score at all but had 4 rebounds and two blocks with his reliable perimeter defense.
Lastly Simone Fontecchio continued his mini shooting slump, now with 4 straight games of 7 points or less while shooting under 35 percent form the field.
That being said, Fontecchio has remained a positive in the +/- department during the 3-game winning streak.
Did we shut down Jokic?
No, that’s next to impossible.
Jokic had 27 points while going 8/9 from the field with 11 rebounds and 6 assists.
BUT we did force him, to turn it over six times (his third highest mark this season) with this revamped defensive effort and shut down everyone around him.
Michael Porter Jr had 5 points on 9 shots.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 12 points on 9 shots.
Jamal Murray had his 17 points with 15 attempts.
Aaron Gordon was the only Nugget with not named Jokic to attempt more than 5 shots and shoot at a high clip. He would finish with 12 points on 6 shots, hitting both three ball attempts.
Alright, give me that sweet highlight from a sweet game.
BALL MOVEMENT, TRANSITION BASKETS, WOOOOO!
I hear there’s a hardcore stat going around. Care to share?
When do we get a shot to officially hit .500?
Tomorrow, Friday the 12th at 7:00, Utah welcomes the Toronto Raptors to town.
Toronto is 15-23, on a two-game losing streak and 6-14 away from Canada.