Jazz Frontcourt Shines, But Jokic Carries Nuggets To Victory

Oct 30, 2023, 10:29 PM | Updated: Oct 31, 2023, 10:42 am

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz got strong play from their frontcourt, but it wasn’t enough as they fell to the Denver Nuggets 110-102.

Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kessler, and John Collins combined for 64 points and 36 rebounds in a breakout performance, though the Jazz fell to 1-3 on the season.

Nikola Jokic recorded 27 point, 10 rebound, 11 assist triple-double to improve the Nuggets to 4-0.

Jazz Get Ideal Frontcourt Production Against Nuggets

The Jazz struck a healthy balance in their frontcourt for the first time this season as each starting big man made major contributions to the roster.

Collins scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half, giving the team a much-needed spark in the second quarter scoring easily in the paint, stepping out and hitting a three, and earning three trips to the free-throw line.

“There were way more positive things coming out of tonight than negative,” Will Hardy said after the game. “Obviously we would have preferred to win, but that’s a very good basketball team.”

Markkanen was the best player on the floor in the third quarter scoring 12 of his 27 points on 5-8 shooting while grabbing five rebounds as the Jazz outscored Denver 24-22.

“We’re gonna win a lot of basketball games if we compete the way we did and the second half,” Markkanen said.

Kessler had by far his best game of the season scoring 22 points and grabbing 13 rebounds against a superstar in Jokic. The second-year big man was engaged from the opening time for the first time in four outings and it translated to success on the floor.

“My teammates did a great job of making sure I got the ball in the right opportunities,” Kessler said of his breakout performance.

On paper, the Jazz should have a decided edge with their size and athleticism in the frontcourt most nights they step on the floor, but it wasn’t until Monday’s game that it all came together on the floor.

The Jazz may not be able to count on their frontcourt to deliver 64 points and 36 rebounds every night, but with Markkanen contributing a consistent 25 and nine every time he steps on the floor, his two big teammates ought to be able to combine for close to 30 points and 20 rebounds alongside him.

If Monday night’s performance is a sign of things to come, the Jazz will have better results than their 1-3 start to the season would indicate.

Jazz Have Too Many No-Shows Against Nuggets

While the frontcourt had its best game of the season, the Jazz continue to get too many no-show performances to have a realistic chance to win games.

Against Denver, Jordan Clarkson managed just four points on 2-10 shooting including five turnovers.

Kelly Olynyk scored three points on 0-2 shooting, Ochai Agbaji was 0-5 from the floor including 0-2 from three, while Kris Dunn had a scoreless 0-2 performance.

Including rookie Keyonte George’s 1-6 performance, and those five players combined to score seven points on 10 points on 3-25 shooting, including 1-13 from downtown.

As a rookie, George’s poor shooting performances can be more easily understood, but veterans like Clarkson, Olynyk, Agbaji, and Dunn can’t all have off nights and still expect the Jazz to win games, especially against good opponents.

In Saturday’s loss to the Phoenix Suns, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kessler, and Dunn all had no-show performances.

In the season-opening loss to the Sacramento Kings, it was Horton-Tucker and Collin Sexton who underperformed expectations.

Depth should be a strength of this Jazz team with the number of veterans and young talent sprinkled throughout the roster. But unless that depth performs on a consistent basis, the Jazz will continue to fall short in winnable games.

Nightly Awards

The ‘Bruce Willis In Die Hard Welcome To The Party Pal‘ Award goes to:

Talen Horton-Tucker who had his best game of the season scoring 16 points on 7-12 shooting while adding eight assists and committing just one turnover.

That’s the type of performance the Jazz will need from their starting point guard if they hope to make the playoffs this season.

The ‘Kyle Anderson His Performance Was Better Than His Stats‘ Award Goes To:

Keyonte George whose 1-6 shooting performance and -12 plus-minus may look ugly on the box score, but his play was far easier to watch than the numbers would indicate.

Many of George’s missed shots were late clock heaves where he was left trying to create something out of nothing, and the best aspect of his performance Monday came on the defensive end.

George helped limit Jamal Murray to 18 points on 19 shots, and a team-worst -5 plus-minus.

Jazz Next Broadcast

The Jazz will face the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday at 7 p.m. MST in Salt Lake City. The game will be televised on KJZZ, streamed on Jazz+, and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone.

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, and video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Jazz Frontcourt Shines, But Jokic Carries Nuggets To Victory