by Alma Bean
Feature Image: Photo by Dustin Bradford of Getty Images.
The Utah Jazz (15-13) travel to take on the Denver Nuggets (15-10) on the second night for Utah’s eighth back-to-back of the season.
The Rocky Mountains or Rocky Start?
Before tip-off, Utah was already facing an uphill battle with their injury report. With a lengthy list of Jordan Clarkson, Mike Conley, Simone Fontecchio, Lauri Markkanen, and Collin Sexton, Utah coach Will Hardy was forced to make lineup adjustments.
Utah turned to the perimeter to make up for the near 70 PPG that would be missing for this matchup. Shooting 7/13 (53.8%) from the perimeter may sound nice but not when it’s accompanied by 2/9 (22.2%) within the perimeter. With Jamal Murray (30/4/5) able to shoot 4/4 (100%) from the field in the first, makes the final quarter score a bit of a surprise. With Nickeil Alexander-Walker (27/3/2) leading the helm with nine points in the first, Utah trailed 28-26.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “That’s another three. Knock it down, Ochai!” @JordanClarksons loves the splash from the rook 🤩 #TakeNote https://t.co/7Cqt0xhRub” / Twitter
Alexander-Walker continued to be the life of this Utah team offensively matching his first-quarter numbers totaling at 18 points. Utah’s positive shooting efficiency switched from within the perimeter to the outside. While being able to drive 8/11 (72.7%) within the perimeter, Utah struggled from outside shooting a horrendous 2/10 (20%). Outside of the “next man up” mentality for this Utah team and defensive effort, the second quarter did not provide a lot of offensive firepowers. This effort, though a valiant effort, had Utah trailing 61-52 going to the locker room at halftime.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “Talen(ted) on both sides of the ball #TakeNote https://t.co/JdAb9Rl88E” / Twitter
A Roster of Unknown Potential
The third quarter was led by the production of Malik Beasley (19/5/3) and Kelly Olynyk (18/9/3). With Utah only having two players scoring in double figures going into the half, Beasley and Olynyk found ways to score. Beasley did what he does best by shooting from the perimeter and creating space between him and the defender around the midrange. Olynyk earned six of his seven points from the free-throw line. Persistence in the paint and forcing contact led to easy points that even gave Utah the lead after being down by as much as 11. Having the underdog mentality brought Utah within two points trailing 92-90 at the end of the third quarter.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “Threesley for the lead! 🐝 #TakeNote https://t.co/BKFtqtYdwO” / Twitter
With neither team shooting better than 50 percent from the field, this quarter became a battle of defenses. Utah kept trying to force shots including highly contested threes that were not finding the bottom of the net. There was an eight-minute gap between Utah’s first made three by Rudy Gay (5/2/1) and their last made three by Alexander-Walker. Denver continued to feed the unstoppable force known as Nikola Jokic (31/12/14) who found ways to find the next man or get himself to the line. Utah continued to keep the game close till the final minute of the game. Hardy looked like he didn’t agree with a lot of calls or no calls that came in the final quarter which resulted in a Utah loss of 115-110. Hardy had spoken his mind to the refs at the end of the first half and his demeanor did not change at the final buzzer.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “🚫BLOCKER KESSLER🚫 #TakeNote https://t.co/JXapxmP7jx” / Twitter
Utah will get a little break before returning to Vivint Arena on Tuesday for their two-game homestand against the New Orleans Pelicans.