While it probably would have been better to see a hard-fought loss, tonight's game ended up being pretty fun to watch. It's rare to watch the Nuggets be as accurate as they were from beyond the arc tonight, with multiple players hitting 3 or more three point attempts. Forcing the Jazz defense to close out then lead to a number of pretty interior plays and dunks, ultimately overwhelming a Jazz defense that holds its opponents to a Western Conference best 95 points per game. The Nuggets turned the tables on the defensive-minded Jazz, holding them below 40% shooting from the floor and less than 20% from three.
- Kenneth Faried wins the tip (somehow) and after some high screens Danilo Gallinari hits a three to crack the scoreboard first. A stepback jumper from Ty and it's 6-0. Unfortunately, a clearly frustrated Faried picks up his second foul defending Rudy gobert and will probably sit for the rest of the first quarter. J.J. Hickson enters the game with 8 minutes to go. Ugh. A nice fast break started by a Gallo block ends in a Wilson Chandler dunk (assisted by Ty) and the Jazz call timeout with the Nuggets up 12-6.
- J.J. Hickson gets blocked by Rudy Gobert on a weak layup attempt (though redeems himself somewhat by taking a charge on Favors); Utah turns it over on their next possession. Ty Lawson mails in a dubious long two that barely grazes iron. The Utah Jazz respond with a pass thrown into the second row. Feels like garbage time and there's still 4 minutes to play in the first quarter. I can't really blame them.
- Despite some incredibly sloppy play, the Nuggets end up shooting 50% from the floor, 60% from 3, and hit 3 of 4 free throws. The Nuggets hold the Jazz to 33% from the floor and 0-6 from 3, but are outrebounded 15-7 and take just 2 a point lead into the second frame.
- After sitting the entire first quarter, Nurkic comes in to cover Derrick Favors over the smaller Faried. A good adjustment by Hunt. Will Barton's also come in and provided his usual spark: despite a bad turnover, he chases down Elijah Millsap for a nice block that turns into 1 of 2 free throws for Millsap. A few solid defensive sequences including a "Nurk Lurk" in the post for two and the Nuggets have put together a 10-0 run. Quin Snyder calls timeout with the Nuggets up 11 and has a look on his face like his last bump just wore off.
- Ty Lawson squirrel steals an inbound pass after splashing a stepback jumper, and the lead grows to 13. Joffrey Lauvergne somehow sneaks onto the court and immediately fumbles a rebound into the hands of Trevor Booker. After the ensuing layup, another Denver turnover leads into a nifty behind-the-back Gobert assist to Booker for a thunderous dunk. A few more good looks for Utah and the Nuggets lead drops to 4, 35-31. However, a quick Hunt timeout stops the bleeding with an alley oop to Ty Lawson (?!) and Gallo's third three pointer of the game, quickly restoring the lead to 11. Gallo's heating up!
- The whole team is stroking it from beyond the arc, hitting 7 of 11 attempts. Ty spins through the lane on a beautiful attack and drops a bounce pass behind him to a trailing Hickson for a monstrous dunk, and the Nuggets increase their lead to 16. Amazing!
Despite the Jazz holding their opponents to just 95 points a game, the Nuggets score 52 points in the first half and take a 13 point lead into the second half, 52-39. The first quarter was sloppy, but the Nuggets tightened up in the second and pulled away. We'll see if they can sustain the energy in the second half.
- Opening up the second half, Faried takes it inside on Rudy Gobert with a nifty layup. The teams trade buckets for the first few minutes and the Jazz knock the Nuggets lead down to 9, but the Nuggets still appear to be firmly in control. A long three by Randy foye again puts the Nuggets up 12, and Chandler takes it straight into Rudy Gobert for two more. Hayward responds and draws a foul but the Jazz are still down 10 with 2:51 to play in the third.
- Jameer Nelson drains ANOTHER three pointer. The team has collectively shot 10-18 from beyond the arc and are using the long ball to keep Utah at arm's length. I'm not sure they can keep up this pace in the final frame, but they're setting themselves up nicely with a solid lead. Gallinari extends his arms and picks up his 3rd block of the game. The Nuggets take a 12 point lead into the 4th, 75-63.
- Erick Green dunks (!!!) off a beautiful pass from Jameer and the Jazz quickly call timeout. I wasn't even aware the Green COULD dunk, and it appears the Jazz weren't either.
- It's great to see the young guys get a lot of run in the 4th. Erick Green, Joffrey Lauvergne and Will Barton have all seen significant minutes and are performing well.
- Jameer is shooting with a ton of confidence tonight, breaking ankles and causing rankles...in the Jazz defense. I love see him take a sure shot from outside and he's demonstrated a solid passing ability. He's seemed revitalized playing under Hunt.
- Jameer drains another three, Ty again steals an inbound pass, and Barton drains a Nuggets 3. The Nuggets lead balloons to 19 and effectively ends the game.
The Jazz offense looked so bad tonight I, for a second, thought they were being coached by Brian Shaw. Zing! Seriously, though, at one point the Jazz had just 67 points in the fourth quarter. They ended up missing 22 three point attempts, shooting a dismal 18.5% from beyond the arc on 27 attempts. While Rudy Gobert tallied a 14 point, 14 rebound double double - he's turned out to be pretty good, folks - and Gordon Hayward contributed a very efficient 24, Elijah Millsap's 16 points was the only other big contribution from the Jazz tonight. To say their offensive performance was dismal would be understating it.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets had perhaps their best outside shooting performance of the season, splashing 13 of 24 attempts for a shiny 54.2% on the night. They also shot 51% from the floor, recorded 23 assists, and generally played with good energy and a solid effort. Gallo is still too shot happy, ending up 4-14 despite a hot start. While he needs to keep taking those shots to get back into rhythm, I also want to see him taking better shots. He's too often settling for the outside look instead of taking it to the rim. Will Barton racked up a nice 12 point 10 rebound double double and seems like he's going to be a long-term piece for this team - thanks to Tim Connelly.
Ultimately, tonight was a solid win, despite it hurting the Nuggets upcoming lottery chances. The team is now 8-6 under Melvin Hunt and will play the Jazz again, in Utah, on April 1.