UTAH JAZZ

Jazz Mitchell Gets Little Help As Nuggets Force Game Seven

Aug 30, 2020, 10:36 PM | Updated: Aug 31, 2020, 12:55 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz have been waiting for a star like Donovan Mitchell to end up on their roster since John Stockton and Karl Malone left the team in 2003. In just his third season, Mitchell has become a reliable go-to scorer, especially in the playoffs where averaging a jaw-dropping 38 points per game through six games against the Denver Nuggets. But now with Mitchell on a pathway to stardom, he needs to find more help from his teammates as the Jazz dropped game six 119-107.

Mike Conley added 21 points for the Jazz on an efficient 7-13 shooting, but no other Jazz player scored more than 11 points in the loss.

For the second straight game, the Jazz frontcourt has been abysmal on the offensive side of the floor. Rudy Gobert, Royce O’Neale, and Joe Ingles combined for 21 points on 5-16 shooting, missing eight of their 17 free-throw attempts. That means in total, of the 24 opportunities that Gobert, O’Neale, or Ingles finished the possession with a shot, the Jazz scored just 21 points.

“I really think the offense affected our defense,” Gobert said. “And we have to find a way to play through their defense and be able to keep moving the ball.

Denver was outscored 36-30 over the first 12 minutes of the game. The Jazz had eight assists in the first quarter but managed just 14 more over the next 36 minutes.

Mitchell was visually frustrated after the game, kicking a chair before pulling an exercise bike to the ground, but said the team can’t afford to lose focus.

“We’re just [expletive] off because that was a winnable game,” Mitchell said. “No one’s done. We got one more game. If we’re down now than we’ve already lost game seven. I don’t think anybody’s down.”

Jazz Bench Needs To Be Better In Game Seven

As tough an outing as the trio of starting frontcourt players were for the Jazz, the bench was worse. Jordan Clarkson and Georges Niang combined to connect on just 8-20 shots and 3-10 from the three-point line. Niang connected on half of his six field goals, including four three-point attempts, but has been a target of the Nuggets offensive attack.

The Jazz were outscored by 24 points when Clarkson was on the floor, and 19 points when Niang was in action. Jazz coach Quin Snyder played reserve center Tony Bradley just under five minutes total for the game, while Juwan Morgan played just 1:41.

Snyder is pushing to get every minute he can out of his regular rotation players, but it left the team looking sluggish for stretches in the second half. Denver outrebounded the Jazz 43-30 in the game and outscored the Jazz 10-2 in second-chance points.

Too Much Jamal Murray

The Jazz continue to have no answer for the Nuggets Jamal Murray. The guard scored 50 points for the second time in the last three games, joining Mitchell, Allen Iverson, and Michael Jordan as the only players who have ever done it twice in one series.

The Jazz have tried to mix their coverages on Murray, throwing O’Neale, Ingles, and Mitchell at the guard, but nothing is working. When the Jazz go under a screen, he pulls up for an easy three-point shot that he hasn’t missed often.

“He’s playing terrific basketball,” Snyder said of Murray. “We’ve got to do a better job on him. We have a game seven opportunity to do that, but he’s been terrific.”

When the Jazz go over the screen, Murray gets into the paint for a lay-in or finds open shooters as the Jazz defense collapses. It’s nearly perfect basketball, and it’s unstoppable as long as Murray continues to knock down jumpers. The Jazz best hope may be that the red-hot guard simply has an off shooting, but shouldn’t count on it.

Murray has scored 142 points over his last three games for an average of 47 points per outing. While that level of play is unsustainable over a long period of time, it’s hard to imagine the former Kentucky guard cooling off in game seven.

Nuggets Supporting Staff Outplaying The Jazz

While Murray and Mitchell are playing at a comparable level, the Jazz supporting staff is getting thoroughly outplayed by the rest of Denver’s roster.

Nikola Jokic added 22 points 7-15 shooting while dishing out nine assists. Jerami Grant added 18 points for the Nuggets, knocking down 6-9 shots from the floor and 4-7 from the three-point line.

The Nuggets bench wasn’t particularly efficient, connecting on just 4-14 shots including 1-9 from the three-point line, but were key in Denver’s victory by simply outhustling the Jazz.

Denver’s second unit outrebounded the Jazz 26-5, led by 12 boards from Michael Porter Jr. According to the plus-minus numbers, Mason Plumlee was the Nuggets worst reserve, and the Jazz were outscored by 11 points when the backup center was on the floor. Gary Harris, who hadn’t played in a competitive game in six months was +16 for the night, Torrey Craig was +18, and Porter Jr. was +21.

Mitchell is going to need significant help from his teammates in game seven if the Jazz hope to avoid becoming on the 12th team in NBA history to lose a playoff series they led three games to one.

Game seven will tip-off at 6:30 Tuesday night on ABC. The game will also be broadcast locally on AT&T SportsNet.

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