UTAH JAZZ

Jazz Hope Speed Can Counter Nuggets Size Advantage

Aug 15, 2020, 3:48 PM | Updated: 11:15 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – For the many things the Utah Jazz knew they would be missing when Bojan Bogdanovic had season-ending wrist surgery — shooting, dribble penetration, shooting, clutch performances, and more shooting — size likely wasn’t at the top of the list. However, after drawing the Denver Nuggets, one of the league’s biggest teams, in the playoffs, the absence of the forward’s 6’10 frame is more noticeable than ever. Now, with a significant size disadvantage in the postseason, the Jazz are hoping their improved speed can counter the Nuggets immense size.

The Nuggets shortest starter is Jamal Murray, who stands a robust 6’4 tall. Shooting guard Torrey Craig and forward Paul Millsap stand 6’7, Michael Porter Jr. is 6’10, while center Nikola Jokic is an even 7’0.

Off the bench PJ Dozier is 6’6, Jerami Grant is 6’8, Mason Plumlee is 6’11, and recent breakout backup Bol Bol is a staggering 7’2. Guard Monte Morris is the shortest Nuggets rotation player, and at 6’2, is taller than both Jazz guards Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley.

Jazz Will Counter Nuggets Size With Speed

While the Jazz can’t run a lineup onto the floor that can match the Nuggets size, they can use speed to get around Denver’s larger bodies.

“We’re not as big,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder admitted, “But we’re quick. We’re fast.”

In Bogdanovic’s absence, the Jazz have relied heavily on Rudy Gobert to provide the team with length, while turning to Conley, Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, and Royce O’Neale for speed.

The results have been promising, especially for Conley who has had a breakout six-game stretch in Orlando.ย The veteran guard is averaging 18 points per game in the bubble and has surpassed the 20 point mark in each game in which he’s played 30 or more minutes. Barring foul trouble, Conley should expect to see 30-plus minutes per night throughout the playoffs.

“Mike’s been so good picking his spots,” Snyder said of his veteran point guard. “And he’s a guy to me that’s a really found a groove. He’s a terrific player. And I don’t know who’s quicker in the league, but also to be smart to know how to use your quickness.”

Conley and Clarkson, two of the Jazz quickest players may be the key to the series against Denver. Conley’s 20.5 points per game average and Clarkson’s 24 points per game are season highs for both players against any opponent this year. While Bogdanovic’s size and scoring ability will be missed, the Jazz may have found a weak link in the Denver defense with their quicker guards.

Mitchell Not Anticipating Bad Denver Defense

The Nuggets own the worst defense inside the NBA bubble in Orlando. Denver has a defensive rating of 121.7 in eight games, drawing the criticism of coach Mike Malone.

โ€œWe have the worst defense in the bubble, so we havenโ€™t seen much progress in any area in regards to anything defensive related,โ€ Malone said. โ€œCommunication, transition, pick-and-roll, 3-point, whatever you want to call it.โ€

The Nuggets are allowing opponents to shoot nearly 45 percent from the three-point line over the last eight games, including giving up franchise-record 22 made three’s against the Jazz.

Despite the recent trend, Mitchell banking on it to bail out the Jazz.

“I don’t anticipate them having those struggles come playoff time,” Mitchell said, acknowledging the Nuggets have been shorthanded in Orlando. “It’s different, they didn’t have Gary [Harris], they didn’t have Will [Barton]. So it’s different going into those games without two guys who are really a key part of the team.”

However, there’s no guarantee either player will be available for the Nuggets against the Jazz. Harris has yet to play in the bubble, while Barton played 18 minutes of the team’s final scrimmage and hasn’t seen the floor since.

That means neither played has appeared in a competitive basketball game in more than five months, making it a tall task to reacclimate to the floor during the playoffs.

Still, Mitchell said the Jazz aren’t taking the Nuggets shortcomings for granted.

“I think there’ll be a right come playoff time,” Mitchell said, “And that’s what we’re anticipating.”

The Jazz and Nuggets open the NBA playoffs on Monday at 11:30 am MT. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN and locally on AT&T SportsNet.

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