By the time the Denver Nuggets started their match against Utah Jazz at Pepsi Center on Thursday night, the Philadelphia 76ers had put the finishing touches to a road win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In Orlando, the Kevin Durant-less Warriors had already left one at the Magic. This paved the way for some evolution of the Western Conference rankings. A win would give Denver exclusive possession of first place and would open an almost insurmountable five game lead – with the tiebreaker face to face – on the Thunder.
This victory was denied when the Jazz achieved a masterful defensive performance and secured a 111-104 victory on the road.
The Nuggets struggled to open the matches as their head coach Michael Malone would like this season, with stubborn efforts and strong communication on the defensive side. It is not uncommon for the Nuggets to allow too many baskets in the first 12 minutes and then get out of that hole in the second half.
The script was returned on Thursday.
At the beginning of the match, the Nuggets chose to trap the goaltender when Gobert was used as a pick-and-roll coach. This strategy requires diligent communication during subsequent rotations and a strategy that has made Denver vulnerable in turns all season. long.
The Jazz scored 13 points, but the Denver rotations were at the rendezvous and almost every shot was played. Only three of these depth shots found the back of the net. Denver managed to limit the Jazz to 19 points in the first quarter, a result that might have pleased Malone if it were not for his terrible work at the other end of the world.
The defense of Utah, one of the best in the league, has cracked down on the Nuggets. Not a single Denver player scored more than 4 points in the quarter and was limited to 22 total points – this is the seventh time of the season that he has failed to score at least 23 points.
The second quarter belonged to Utah.
Only Nikola Jokic was able to score more than three points in the quarter, but he was 1-for-4 on the field and returned twice. All in all, Denver shot a catastrophic score of 5 for 22 (23%) of the field and 1 for 7 of the deepest. They returned seven times, which gave Utah eight points, which did not need additional help from its offensive side.
The Jazz thawed the bottom (5 in 10) and set the Nuggets on fire for 33 points in total, with Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles in the lead.
While both teams were heading to their respective locker rooms, Denver was down 52 to 37, but the gap seemed even bigger than that. These 37 points were the least marked by the Nuggets in the first half of the season.
The third quarter started with much of the same thing. The Nuggets could not remove the cover from the basket, and this first quarter defense seemed like a distant dream since Utah burned them with the pick-and-roll, putting pressure on the back defender and creating multiple appearances open from three.
One of those three trios came from legendary marksman Kyle Korver with 6:05 left. The shot pushed Utah 18 points and the Jazz seemed ready to flee.
That's when Will Barton stepped in.
From that moment on and until the end of the third quarter, Thrill had 13 points on 4-for-5 in the field. He also progressed on the defensive side and galvanized his teammates while they were trying to end the quarter. Barton's effort was crucial: Jokic, the best player of either team, scored his fifth personal foul with a remaining 4.50 and was forced to sit for the remainder of the third.
This last round would reduce Utah's lead to only 8, but Mitchell tied a three-under-the-ring to bring the lead back to double digits.
The Nuggets continued this momentum in the fourth quarter. The bench was able to cut in the lead with a 7-3 record from the door. A pair of free throws from Gary Harris reduced the lead to just five and the crowd burst as she felt the momentum spread to Denver. But the Nuggets left Korver open in the corner – an unfortunate theme in this game – and he broke through all three. It was the beginning of a 13-0 series in Utah.
The game seemed finished. Completed. But Denver had another race in them.
The starting unit of the opening night closed its second game away and led a furious rally. It seemed like they were ready to take the lead at two minutes, especially after a Millsap three had reduced the gap to three with a 1:14 delay, but an incredible distance Mitchell kept them at bay.
The game's most important game came 49 seconds from the end, when Jokic placed a float in the hope of bringing the lead back to three. Gobert intercepted him, which was called a scoring goal, but the referees stopped playing to review the call. He was knocked down and possession was not attributed to the Nuggets. A balloon was called, which resulted in the possession of Utah.
With this defeat, the Nuggets record drops to 42-19 and 27-5 at home. They will have another chance to do it Saturday night when they welcome the pelicans of New Orleans. This game starts at 19:00 MT time.