UTAH JAZZ

No Asterisk In Jazz Win Over Nuggets

Jan 10, 2024, 11:53 PM | Updated: Jan 11, 2024, 11:03 am

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz concluded their gauntlet run with an impressive 124-111 victory over the reigning champion Denver Nuggets.

The Jazz played four of the NBA’s six best teams over the last seven days and emerged with a stunning 3-1 record.

Jordan Clarkson scored 27 points to lead the Jazz while Lauri Markkanen added 26 in the victory.

Jazz Prove Recent Play Is Real Against Nuggets

Though the Jazz entered Wednesday’s game having won 11 of 15 and eight of their last 10, there was some question about how authentic the hot streak was.

The stretch included two wins over the Detroit Pistons, a win over the Portland Trail Blazers, and another over the San Antonio Spurs.

The Jazz also beat the Miami Heat who were missing All-Star Jimmy Butler in the fourth quarter, and downed the Dallas Mavericks in an always curious New Year’s Day game, all before surviving the Philadelphia 76ers without MVP Joel Embiid and the Milwaukee Bucks without Damian Lillard.

However, there were no asterisks in the Jazz’s win over a fully healthy Nuggets team on national television.

The Jazz took it to the Nuggets from the opening tip, building a double-digit lead in the opening six minutes, owning an 18-point lead at the half, and never letting Denver close the gap to fewer than 13 over the final 24 minutes of the game.

“I thought the team’s focus defensively against a really, really good basketball team was very, very good from the beginning of the game,” Will Hardy said.

The Jazz forced the Nuggets stars into tough nights, with Nikola Jokic recording only six assists to go with six turnovers, and Jamal Murray scoring 17 points on 6-15 shooting.

Offensively, the Jazz recorded 34 assists to just 16 turnovers and shot a scorching 55 percent from the floor.

“I feel like we played our style of ball no matter who was on the other side of the court,” Collin Sexton said. “We played our style of ball and we played well. I feel like we played well tonight.”

Sexton finished with 22 points and four assists in just 21 minutes after starting his 16th consecutive game.

The Jazz are 12-4 with Sexton starting this season. The 25-year-old has recorded 20 or more points 12 times in his last 17 outings after doing so just twice in his first 22 appearances.

What the Jazz will look like over the second half of the season remains to be determined, but they’ve proven they’re capable of competing with the best teams in the NBA night in and night out, and Wednesday’s win over the Nuggets solidified it.

Lauri Markkanen Is Making An All-Star Case

Prior to the hamstring injury that caused him to eight games in early December, the thought of Markkanen making his second-straight All-Star team seemed like a pipedream.

His 23.7 point, 8.7 rebound averages were not far off of his numbers last year, but with the Jazz sitting at 4-11 to open the season, it would have been easy to leave him off the roster.

However, with the Jazz’s recent success, he’s beginning to place himself back in the All-Star conversation.

Though his numbers remain remarkably similar, (23.3 points, 8.6 rebounds over his previous 13 games entering Wednesday’s game) Markkanen is proving he can go toe-to-toe with the top players in the NBA.

The Jazz’s wins include matchups with Julius Randle, Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes, Victor Wembanyama, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, Luka Doncic, Tyrese Maxey, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and now Nikola Jokic.

The forward has scored 30 or more points in as many games over his last 14 outings as he has failed to break the 20-point mark.

He has seven double-doubles during the stretch including Wednesday’s 26-point, 12-rebound performance.

The West, as always is loaded, with the Jazz’s slow start, and the game not being played in Markkanen’s backyard this season, he still has an uphill climb to be selected.

However, he’s made a compelling case once again, and will get strong consideration ahead of the January 25th All-Star announcements.

Nighty Awards: Jazz vs. Nuggets

The “Unsung Hero” Awards:

Go to John Collins and Ochai Agbaji who both made big impacts against the Nuggets but won’t receive much fanfare for their performances.

Collins got the Jazz into an offensive flow early scoring 10 first quarter points on a perfect 4-4 shooting.

His two three-point shots stretched the Nuggets defense for the rest of the night, and he was active in transition. Collins finished with 15 points, six rebounds, and three assists in 24 minutes.

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Agabaji’s zero point, four rebound, one assist stat line was less remarkable, but he didn’t let his scoreless night prevent him from having an impact.

The second-year forward stayed active blocking two shots and recording a steal in 13 minutes didn’t allow Jamal Murray to find a rhythm against the Jazz second unit.

Utah Jazz’s Next Broadcast

The Jazz will face the Toronto Raptors on Friday at 7:30 pm 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.

 

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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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