by Harry Porter | The NBA Bubble seeding games served as an appetizer before the main dish which is the Playoffs. The Jazz went 3-5 in seeding game play, but that did not tell the full story of their performance and player development. Since I have about a million different game threads running through my head, I decided to share ten quick Playoff Notes.
1.) On Sunday, the Jazz announced that Mike Conley had left the NBA Bubble to be with family for the birth of his son. The Jazz are a completely different team without Conley, and will rely on Donovan to be the primary distributor and offensive initiator. Look for Joe Ingles to see a higher offensive usage in game one.
2.) I’m curious to see how Jordan Clarkson will assimilate to the starting five. The last seeding game against the Spurs was a small sample size, but Clarkson shot 25% from the field on 12 shots in 14 minutes. The Jazz need Clarkson to be an offensive firecracker from tip-off.
3.) The Denver Nuggets have a lot of offensive versatility. Head Coach Mike Malone’s offensive scheme is based on constant ball movement whether that’s through pick and rolls or motion sets. Utah will need to use defensive versatility and switch on screens when possible.
4.) In Rayjon Tucker’s last two games, he’s averaged 17.5 points 2.5 rebounds and 1 assist. In those two games, he shot 52.6% from the field and an impressive 92.9% from the free throw line on 14 attempts. The Jazz are going to need Rayjon to step into the Clarkson sixth man role in game one.
5.) The Nuggets lose a substantial amount of scoring depth and defensive versatility. Gary Harris (hip injury) and Will Barton (knee injury) will be out for game one. Mike Malone has not expanded his rotation during the seeding games. Look for him to rely on his starting group even more in game one.
6.) Speaking of injuries, the Jazz will be without big man Ed Davis due to an MCL injury. Before the injury, Ed Davis scored 11 points and grabbed six boards in 11 minutes of action against the Spurs. The Jazz will miss his veteran playoff experience. Davis has been to the playoffs with the Grizzlies (2013, 2014), Trailblazers (2016, 2017 & 2018) and Nets (2019). This is Davis’ seventh trip to playoffs in his ten-year career.
7.) Michael Porter Jr.’s stellar play in the seeding games was recognized in the form of a Second-Team All-Seeding Games selection. MPJ led the Nuggets in scoring at 22 points per game and rebounds at 8.6 boards per game during the seeding games. The Jazz need to commit to fighting through screens or switching on screens because Porter Jr. will punish the defense with open looks beyond the arc. Porter Jr. shot over 42% from three in Denver’s eight seeding games.
8.) Keep your eye on P.J. Dozier during game one to see if he can find some consistency and rhythm off the bench for the Nuggets. Dozier was either hit or miss during the seeding games and only reached double-digit scoring in half of the seeding games. Without Barton and Harris, Denver will continue to rely on Dozier and he’s coming off a 20-point performance with five threes against the Raptors last Friday.
9.) The Jazz need to keep their hot shooting streak from three-point land alive against Denver in game one. In the last five games, Utah has made at least 15 three-pointers in each game. The Jazz need that production from beyond the arc to keep pace with Denver’s explosive offense.
10.) I could see every game in this series coming down to ATOs (After Time Out). ATOs are plays designed for different scenarios coming out of a timeout. Quin Snyder has one of the best ATO minds in the NBA and he’s going to need to have a few clever plays designed for players other than Donovan Mitchell. I thought Frank Vogel brilliantly set up the game-winning shot for Kyle Kuzma by using Lebron James as a decoy for a Laker’s ATO play. Snyder will have the opportunity to create open looks for Ingles, O’Neale and Clarkson by using Mitchell as a decoy. The question comes down to whether or not Snyder trusts them to hit a late-game shot.
My prediction: I think the Jazz will steal game one from the Nuggets 126-121 in OT. I see Mitchell dropping at least 40 points in Utah’s victory.
The game will be broadcast Monday at 11:30 AM MST on ESPN.
Featured image via The Streamable.