Jazz Overcome Self-Induced Mistakes To Beat Nuggets
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz overcame a slew of mistakes to earn a hard-fought 109-105 victory on the road against the Denver Nuggets.
The Jazz struggled on the defensive glass, were careless with the ball, and had a poor overall night from Donovan Mitchell (18 points, 7 assists, 7-20 FG, 0-7 3pt), but still found a way to beat the Nuggets who ended their season in the first round of the playoffs last year.
Jordan Clarkson led the team with 23 points off the bench and the Jazz overcame 65 combined points from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray to earn their fifth consecutive victory, putting them among the elite teams in the NBA.
Jazz Beat Nuggets Despite Themselves
The Jazz have found ways to win despite their own poor play at times this season, as was the case against Denver. Traditionally, on a night when Mitchell starts the game 1-10 from the floor and has just two points through the first two and a half quarters, the Jazz won’t win.
Then, mix in 13 turnovers while surrendering a stunning 23 offensive rebounds, and missing 12 free-throws, and the Jazz should have been cooked.
Instead, the Jazz eeked out a win thanks to a strong defensive performance in the second half that held Denver to just 35 percent shooting from the floor and 25 percent from the three-point line.
After a huge 24 point first half, Jamal Murray scored just six points on 2-11 shooting in the third and fourth quarters.
The Jazz have also won ugly games in Detroit this year and in Oklahoma City. It’s an important skill set to be able to win games in a variety of ways and the Jazz are doing just that.
“You can look at this and look at all the things we didn’t do well, and then you can look at the things that we did do well,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “Tonight we did just enough to win the game. Obviously, we want to be better in some areas, I think we will, but I’m very proud of our guys.”
Jazz Miserable Free-Throw Shooting
As mentioned, the Jazz free-throw shooting was again bad in Denver. They entered the game with the second-worst free-throw percentage in the NBA at just 68.7 percent and followed it up with a 57 percent shooting night against the Nuggets.
Rudy Gobert was the main culprit missing six of his 13 attempts, but both Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic had their struggles as well combining to go 0-6 from the charity stripe.
“Some guys are still trying to get in complete basketball four quarters shape,” Conley said of the team’s poor shooting. “Sometimes it requires a lot of energy to play defense, it requires a lot of energy to get back and defense rebounded, and you have to be able to focus on the free-throw line when you get tired. I think that we’ve just had those lapses from different guys different games.”
The Nuggets were the first team to truly install the ‘hack-a-Gobert’ defense against the Jazz All-Star center. When he touched the ball, they preferred to send him to the free-throw line instead of letting him score an easy two points on a dunk
Gobert’s 13 free-throws were his most of the season by a significant margin but should expect to see more teams send him to the charity stripe if he can’t up his sub-50 percent success rate at the line.
To their credit, the Jazz other five players who earned a trip to the free-throw line connected on 100 percent of their free-throws.
Jazz From 30,000 Feet
This is a good game and a good point in the season to step back and examine where the Jazz are as a team.
It’s easy within the action of a game and season to only look at the flaws because they are the most anxiety-inducing.
Free-throw shooting and turnovers stood out against the Nuggets. Blowout losses to the Phoenix Suns and Brooklyn Nets, and strange losses to lesser teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves and New York Knicks stand out on the season.
“We’re developing into what we want to be,” Mitchell said. “And we’re getting there. This is a great road win, This is one of the ones where we lose to Minnesota early on, we lose to Phoenix.”
However, after beating the Nuggets, the Jazz are tied the league’s second-best record at 9-4, second only to the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
They are tied with the Lakers for the longest winning streak in the NBA at five games and the most road wins with seven.
The Jazz have also played the most road games of any team in the NBA, making their success even more impressive.
Last season was inarguably a disappointment from beginning to end after a slow start out of the gate and an early exit in the playoffs. However, the Jazz are now shaping up as one of the NBA’s truly elite teams, and have the resume to back it up.
The Jazz now turn their attention to the New Orleans Pelicans in back to back meetings beginning on Tuesday night in Salt Lake City.
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