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Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets drives past the Utah Jazz Royce O'Neale (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Nuggets Force Game Six After Bad Second Half Performance From Jazz

Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets drives past the Utah Jazz Royce O'Neale (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz gave away a 15 point second half, and Jamal Murray continued his second-half domination to force a game six after the Denver Nuggets knocked off the Jazz 117-107. Murray finished with 42 points on 17-26 shots, scoring 33 second-half points to end the Jazz three-game playoff winning streak.

The Jazz mustered just 44 second-half points while allowing the Nuggets to finish the game on a staggering 61-36 run over a 21-minute stretch to extend the series.

Jazz Starters Don’t Match Nuggets Murray

Donovan Mitchell finished the game with 30 points on 11-23 shooting, while Mike Conley added 17 points, but the Jazz were left hanging by the rest of the starting lineup, especially after halftime.

Joe Ingles scored 13 points, Rudy Gobert added 11, while Royce O’Neale contributed 10 points for the Jazz, but the trio was nearly non-existent in the second half.

The starting frontcourt combined for just nine points over the final 24 minutes of the game on 4-11 shooting, with 11 rebounds, one assist, four turnovers, and six personal fouls.

O’Neale was particularly harmful in the final two periods. After a strong eight point, three assist, two steal first half, the defensive-minded forward recorded just two points, three rebounds, five personal fouls, and four turnovers in 19 second-half minutes. The Jazz were outscored by 23 while O’Neale was on the floor.

In the fourth quarter combined, Ingles and O’Neale added zero points, zero assists, one rebound, two fouls, and two turnovers in 17 combined minutes.

After the game, Snyder said his team has to play better.

“Sometimes since you can look for a sweeping conclusion on things,” Snyder said. “And other times it’s a string of plays and there were a number of times we didn’t make plays when we needed to. And that’s what we’ve been doing, that’s what we did the first part of the game to get the lead, so sometimes it’s as simple as execution.”

Mitchell Asked To Do Too Much

It’s difficult to comprehend after the repeated brilliant performance Mitchell has turned in for the Jazz, but in the fourth quarter, the Jazz asked their All-Star guard to do too much. After O’Neale picked up his fourth and fifth fouls on consecutive possessions, he was no longer able to defend Murray with the same aggression needed to be effective.

After the Nuggets took the lead on a blowby with Ingles matched up on Murray, Mitchell took the defensive assignment.

“Jamal was playing well and attacking us,” Snyder said. “So we moved Donovan over to him and that does take a toll on Donovan. That’s why we have Royce on him. Donovan wanted the challenge.”

Murray scored 11 points for the Nuggets over the final 8:34 of the game with Mitchell and O’Neale defending him to put game five away.

While Mitchell was being forced to defend Murray on one end, Murray was able to take defensive possessions off in the fourth quarter against the Jazz less aggressive defense. The Jazz waited for Mitchell to once again put on his superhero cape, this time on both ends of the floor, and the third-year guard didn’t have enough left in the tank.

“If that’s what that’s what’s needed then that’s what’s needed,” Mitchell said after the game. “I’m going to do everything my team needs me to do and unfortunately, they were at a level that we just didn’t reach.”

After an emphatic dunk from Mitchell tied the game at 94 with 6:34 remaining, the Nuggets help Mitchell scoreless until a free-throw made with 1:19 left in the fourth quarter and the game already out of reach.

“Donovan didn’t make the same shots at the same moments that he’s used to making,” Conley said. “But I don’t think it was that that stretch at the end of the game that lost us this game.”

Pressure Shifts In Game Six

The pressure now shifts to the Jazz in game six. After having the Nuggets against the wall with a 15 point second-half lead, the Jazz will have to prove that they have an answer for Denver’s momentum and defensive solutions.

The Nuggets turned to PJ Dozier for longer stretches of the second half and got an improved return over Torrey Craig. Denver outscored the Jazz by 20 points during Dozier’s 14 second-half minutes without the forward attempting a shot.

While the Nuggets bench settled into a defensive groove in the second half, the Jazz second unit was almost completely silent. After scoring 14 first-half points to lead the Jazz, Jordan Clarkson added just three points in 10 second-half minutes. George Niang added three more points for the Jazz, and the bench combined for just six points over the final two quarters of the game.

Snyder played just seven players over the final 24 minutes of the game.

The Nuggets bench scored just seven points, as coach Michael Malone shortened his rotation to eight players to fend off elimination. Both Murray and Nikola Jokic played the entire second half.

The Jazz and Nuggets tip-off game six Thursday at 2 pm.

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