UTAH JAZZ

Forrest Career Night Gives Jazz Sweep Over Nuggets

Feb 2, 2022, 11:35 PM | Updated: Feb 3, 2022, 12:11 am
Utah Jazz guard Trent Forrest (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)...
Utah Jazz guard Trent Forrest (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY –Β The Utah Jazz got a career performance from Trent Forrest as they snapped their five-game losing streak with a 108-104 win over the Denver Nuggets.

Forrest carried the shorthanded Jazz offense that was without three of its top four scorers as Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Jordan Clarkson all missed the game with various injuries.

The Nuggets got a game-high 26 points from Bryn Forbes but struggled to find an offensive rhythm without Nikola Jokic, Aaron Gordon, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr.

With the win, the Jazz swept the Nuggets 4-0 in the regular season.

Forrest Was The Best Player On The Floor

The era of COVID has led to some improbable nights in the NBA over the last 23 months, and the Jazz’s win over the Nuggets was no different.

Most notably, the phrase “Trent Forrest was the best player on the floor tonight” wasn’t one anyone who watches the league closely would expect to utter.

However, upon review, it passes the eye test and rings true on the box score.

Forrest finished with career-high 18 points, tied a career-best eight assists, missed just one of his seven field goal attempts, and didn’t commit a turnover in 38 minutes on the floor.

The two main knocks on Forrest’s game this season has been his unwillingness to look for his own shot, and his tendency to turn the ball over. He showed an ability to overcome both of those issues against Denver and it was the key reason the Jazz were able to avoid a sixth straight loss.

“I can’t say enough about what Trent did tonight,” Jazz interim head coach Alex Jensen said, “He’s not 100 percent either.”

It’s unrealistic to expect any player to automatically fill the role of Joe Ingles who is lost for the season after tearing his ACL on Sunday night in Minnesota, but the Jazz are going to need their young backcourt of Forrest and Jared Butler to offer good minutes more often than not over the final 30 games of the season, and Wednesday’s performance was a good start.

Butler struggled to shoot the ball from downtown, missing all five of his attempts, but was 5-6 inside the arc for 10 points and three assists.

O’Neale Lived Up To Defensive Reputation

Royce O’Neale has been labeled the Jazz perimeter defensive stopper since he has the unfortunate job of defending the opposing team’s best player most nights.

That’s neither a fair role for O’Neale to assume every night during the regular season nor a realistic expectation against the NBA’s offensive superstars.

However, against Denver, the veteran forward’s defense was everything it needed to be and more.

With the Jazz struggling to score in the halfcourt, generating transition opportunities was important for the offense, and O’Neale’s active hands were key to the Jazz win.

“We’ve just been more aggressive, communicating more,” O’Neale said. “We’veΒ  been helping each other out.”

Though the stat sheet says O’Neale recorded only two takeaways, he forced the Nuggets into several bad situations that led to turnovers, and easy baskets on the break.

The Jazz finished with 11 fastbreak points to the Nuggets six and outscored Denver 64-42 in the paint.

Between Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, and Rudy Gay, the Jazz have plenty of players who have stepped up on the offensive end to win games.

Outside of Rudy Gobert, however, the Jazz rarely have a player step up and win them the game on the defensive end.

Against Denver, O’Neale changed that narrative by disrupting the Nuggets offense with his hustle and physicality.

Jazz Coaches Love Nikola Jokic

It’s impossible to argue that Nikola Jokic is underrated, having won the MVP last season while being named to the All-NBA team each of the last two seasons.

He’s also starting in the All-Star game later this month, and deservedly so, the superstar center is averaging 25.9 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 7.8 assists while shooting 57 percent from the floor and 37 percent from the three-point line.

His absence was obvious against the Jazz as the Nuggets roster struggled to find any groove without their leading scorer, rebounder, assist man, shot blocker, and ball thief.

Though the Jazz were happy to avoid the star in their final meeting this season, I’d be willing to bet that given a dose of truth serum, the team’s coaches would say that Jokic is their favorite player in the league outside of Utah.

Even with Quin Snyder out, Jazz assistant Alex Jensen wasted little time praising the Nuggets star.

“It’s funny because we talk about as coaches, he is probably the hardest guy to prepare for because there’s no right or wrong way [to defend him],” Jensen said. “I can remember when we beat them in Denver last time we thought we did a pretty good job on him and he had a 20, 20, and 12 triple-double.”

Jensen’s numbers weren’t exactly right, but they weren’t far off.

The last time the Jazz faced Jokic he hung 25 points, 15 rebounds, and 14 assists on them, despite the loss. Before that, he did have a 26 point, 21 rebound, 11 assist performance, also in a loss.

Incredibly, those weren’t even Jokic’s best performance against the Jazz this season.

In late October, Jokic score 26 points, grabbed six rebounds, and handed out six assists in the Nuggets first loss this year in Utah. No, his numbers weren’t as good in that game as the next two meetings with the Jazz, but it comes with a caveat…

The MVP did it just 15 minutes before leaving the game at halftime.

The Jazz were able to sweep the Nuggets this season, a notable achievement considering their recent struggles, but the team will be happy to not have to gameplan for Jokic again before the playoffs, even if he’s their favorite player to watch.

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Forrest Career Night Gives Jazz Sweep Over Nuggets