by Alma Bean
The Utah Jazz (4-1) started their one-game road trip against the Denver Nuggets (3-2.) Both Utah and Denver came in with a lot of question marks, leaving everyone one edge for an answer.
Something Feels Different
Going into Wednesday’s game, Utah had three members of their bench make their way onto the injury report. Rudy Gay and Simone Fontecchio both were out for health and safety protocol. Walker Kessler also missed the game with an illness. On the bright side, Collin Sexton (13 points) was able to return from his short stint on the injury report and Udoka Azubuike (8 points, 4 rebounds) was off the list for the first time this season.
The first quarter felt like a three-point competition. The first eight made baskets of the game were from beyond the perimeter. Though scoring continued, after the first substitution for Utah, Denver began to run away. From the first substitution, Denver outscored Utah 20-11, going into the second quarter with a 35-25 lead.
The second quarter favored Utah but not from the perimeter. Overall, Utah shot perfectly from the free throw line (7/7), great within the perimeter (9/14) and atrocious from beyond (0/6.) Denver just continued to push their brand of quick and aggressive basketball while making a majority of their shots. Bones Hyland (26/1/3) played the game of his life, shooting perfectly (4/4) from the perimeter in the first half. Shooting 9/16 (56.2%) beyond the perimeter and 21/42 (50%) overall, Denver waltzed into the half with a 13-point lead of 63-50.
Time For A New Look
Utah’s height disadvantage for this matchup became apparent as the game progressed. Having players like Talen Horton-Tucker (6/4/2) and Ochai Agbaji (9 points) playing outside of their normal roles and positions to compensate for their missing teammates. With the adjustments to the secondary unit, it looked like the starters tried to take matters into their own hands. Jordan Clarkson (6/5/3) shot his normal volume but managed to shoot 0/7 from the three-point line and 1/10 overall. Utah’s struggles to create an offensive run continued through the end of the third quarter as they trailed 89-78.
With Denver starting the fourth quarter on a 17-1 run, Utah coach Will Hardy put in his young reserves to give them solid playing time while down 29 points. The young unit did outscore Denver 22-11, but the damage was already done. With a valiant effort, the Utah Jazz receives their second loss of the season with a final score of 117-101.
Utah will make their way back home for their second back-to-back series this week as they meet the Memphis Grizzlies in Salt Lake City on Saturday. Tipoff is at 7:00 PM MST on AT&T SportsNet.