Mike Conley: Utah Jazz ‘Not Planning On Going Home’
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz face a must-win game seven after consecutive losses to the Denver Nuggets in games five and six. As the Jazz attempt to slow down Jamal Murray, who is on a historic run with the Nuggets, guard Mike Conley said the team isn’t planning on going home.
The Jazz built a commanding 3-1 series lead through the first four games of the series but allowed Denver’s hot shooting guard to will them back into the series. Donovan Mitchell has been on a tear of his own but needs additional help from his supporting cast for the Jazz to overcome the Nuggets offensive attack. Jazz coach Quin Snyder said the key for helping Mitchell will be spacing.
Conley: Jazz “Not Planning On Going Home”
While the Jazz have had opportunities to close out the Nuggets in games five and six, neither was truly a must-win game. With no safety net to catch them in case of failure, Conley says he expects to see more urgency from the Jazz.
“They’ve really outworked us these last few games and have played with more urgency,” Conley said of the Nuggets. “So now, it’s almost flipped, now we’re the team that’s got to show how urgent we are.”
The Jazz have owned double-digit leads in both game five and game six, but methodically let Murray and the Nuggets work their way back into games. Conley said he believes the team is where it needs to be mentally before game seven.
“I came in early in and Donovan is walking at the same time I am,” Conley said of the Jazz. “We’re getting shots up early, that kind of sets the tone for everybody. It lets us know what our plans are — we’re not planning on going home.”
Quin Snyder Focused on Jazz Spacing
After a 36 point first quarter against the Nuggets in game six, the Jazz managed just 71 points over the final three quarters, leading to a 119-107 loss. For as much talk as there has been about the Jazz defensive inadequacies against Murray, averaging just 23.6 points per quarter as a team through three-quarters of the game is a recipe for disaster. As a result, Jazz coach Quin Snyder is focused on his team’s spacing to avoid going home after Tuesday’s game.
“We’re a team that has multiple guys and can attack and break the lane,” Snyder said Monday, little more than 24 hours before game seven. “And if we’re not spaced, their size and their length really comes into play.”
The Nuggets have one of the longest rosters in the NBA, especially with Jerami Grant in the starting lineup, which has been the case since game four. The Jazz best counter to the Nuggets size is spacing, a point Snyder made a point of emphasis in the team’s final practice of the series.
“I’d like to have us make quicker decisions,” Snyder said. “I think I referenced spacing again because that allows you to make a quick decision. Shoot it quickly, pass it, move it, drive it — But everything has to be done quickly.”
Though the starting backcourt of Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley has excelled in the series, shooting a combined 57 percent from the three-point line on a very healthy 14 attempts per game, the rest of the Jazz starting floor spacers are too unwilling to pull the trigger.
Over the last two losses, Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale have combined to attempt just 17 three-point attempts despite connecting on successful 41 percent of their attempts.
Fallout From Jazz Lack Of Spacing
While Ingles and O’Neale lack of field goal attempts has hurt their own scoring, it’s also likely impacted that of Rudy Gobert. As the two forward’s shot attempts dwindled, so too did that of Gobert.
The Jazz All-Star center has attempted just 8.5 field goals on average over the last two games, after averaging 11 attempts over the first four outings. In addition to fewer field-goal attempts, Gobert’s shooting percentage has plummeted from 75 percent while the Jazz built a 3-1 series advantage to just 41 percent during consecutive losses.
A willingness to shoot, and make three-pointers should loosen up the paint for Gobert to find easier baskets. When Gobert finds those easy looks, Denver’s defense will again compress, and allow for even better spacing for the Jazz perimeter shooters.
The Jazz and Nuggets tip-off at 6:30 pm MT Tuesday. The game will be broadcast exclusively on ABC.
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