UTAH JAZZ

Utah Jazz Break Rhythm, Win Streak In Loss To Nuggets

Jan 31, 2021, 4:55 PM | Updated: 8:51 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz saw their rhythm and their 11 game win streak snapped against the Denver Nuggets in a 128-117 loss on the road.

The Jazz allowed the Nuggets and All-NBA center Nikola Jokic to get off to a hot start to the game scoring 79 points in the first half while shooting 15-17 from the three-point line to open the game before coasting to an uncontested victory.

Meanwhile, Donovan Mitchell looked rusty in his return to the Jazz after missing the last two games with a concussion suffered on Tuesday.

Rhythm

In a league obsessed with statistical measures, the Jazz found themselves on the wrong side of one of the true immeasurables in basketball.

Rhythm.

To win 11 straight games, the Jazz had to find an incredible rhythm to maintain their consistently high-level of shooting, defense, and overall play.

Even before they suited up to play against the Nuggets, it was clear that rhythm was going to be disrupted.

First, the Jazz saw a change in their recent schedule, as they departed from a six-game homestand to play their first road game in nearly two weeks. Instead of leaving on Saturday after Friday night’s win over the Dallas Mavericks, the team left Friday night to try to find their footing in Colorado ahead of schedule.

Then, instead of their traditional 7 pm tip-off time, the Jazz and Nuggets tipped off at 1:30 pm tip-off time. That means the team had to undergo an early morning COVID-19 test before suiting up for the mid-day matchup. It also disrupts each player’s pregame routine, whether that’s a nap in the hotel room or when they like to eat before the game.

The Jazz had to adjust to their recent rhythm as they welcomed Donovan Mitchell back to the court after missing each of the last two games with concussion-like symptoms. The Jazz had found consistency with Joe Ingles starting in place of Mitchell but had to readjust after re-inserting Mitchell into the starting lineup.

Perhaps the most glaring example of rhythm however is the one Jokic found early in the game. The Jazz opened the first quarter attempting to defend the All-Star center with wings Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale and it simply didn’t work.

Jokic was able to initiate the Nuggets offense and find his own shot with ease over the Jazz smaller defenders, and once he got in his rhythm, there was no stopping him.

“You can change a couple of things to try to take someone out of a rhythm,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “We started with Bojan on him to begin the game I actually thought Bojan did a pretty good job on him.”

The Serbian center scored 33 points in the first half on 13-17 shooting, helping the Nuggets build a lead as big as 27 before the Jazz trimmed it to 79-54 at the break.

The MVP candidate finished with 47 points on 17-26 shooting to lead the Nuggets to the easy win.

Mitchell meanwhile never fully clicked in. The guard finished with 13 points on 3-12 shooting while turning the ball over five times in the loss.

“Feels good to get my rhythm back,” Mitchell said after suffering through the concussion. “I think that’s the biggest thing, but no real [lingering] effects.”

The Jazz all-star is heavily reliant on rhythm as he started the season slowly and couldn’t seem to shake his struggles during the team’s 4-4 start, before finally clicking in during his nine appearances in the Jazz 11-game win streak.

Getting Mitchell back into a rhythm is going to be key for the Jazz if they want to continue to see their name among the best teams in the NBA.

Bogdanovic Back

While the loss hurts the Jazz on the micro-scale, the recent emergence of Bogdanovic might have enormous benefits for the Jazz if it continues. While it’s hard to imagine the Jazz playing much better than they have over the last three weeks, an improved Bogdanovic can certainly elevate their play.

The forward had a season-high 32 points against the Mavericks on Friday and followed it up with 29 against the Nuggets, his second-best outing this year.

Bogdanovic is shooting a combined 18-29 from the floor and 12-21 from three over the last eight quarters, and averaging 30.5 points.

Recently the forward has seen his good games followed immediately by poor performances, but for this first time this season, Bogdanovic has posted back-to-back 20 point games.

“I think that game last game against Dallas really helped him see how you can get going,” Mitchell said. “Certain layups that he was missing he’s starting to make, he’s starting to make it easier for himself running in transition, he’s shooting instead of pump faking.”

The Jazz are already the most prolific three-point shooting team in the NBA, and if Bogdanovic has truly found his footing, he represents another 20 points per game scorer and 40 percent three-point shooter for opposing teams to have to account for.

The forward’s play is important when the Jazz backcourt players need a boost from an additional scorer. However, when Mitchell, Mike Conley, and Jordan Clarkson combine to shoot 9-35 from the floor for 28 points, there’s not much Bogdanovic’s play can do to help carry the offense.

The Jazz will look to rebound when they host the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday in Salt Lake City.

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