The Denver Nuggets wrap up the season series with the Utah Jazz this evening, with both teams already making plans for the offseason.Though neither team is moving on to the playoffs, both teams have been proactive in trying to win as many games as they can on their way out. Both teams should come out firing, but multiple letdowns over the season have been a part of why their records look the way they do. As these teams faced off five nights prior, there won't be many surprises for either side.
The Denver Nuggets come out of the gates with good ball movement, but have some troubles getting shots to fall. Fortunately, Utah starts with a similar affliction, and halfway the first quarter, neither team has broken double digits, with Denver up 9-8. The Nuggets did start small, with Kenneth Faried at center and Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler playing back and forth at the three and four slots. With Randy Foye and Ty Lawson rounding out the starting backcourt, you wonder how much of Jusuf Nurkic and Joffrey Lauvergne the Nuggets will see tonight after a three-night break.
Through the rest of the quarter, shooting heats up for Denver, with an array of drives falling for Faried, and Gallo, Will Barton, and Jameer Nelson contributing from beyond the arc. Denver wraps the quarter on a 10-2 scoring run, and find themselves up on the Jazz 29-22 after one.
Denver gives the bulk of the lead back quickly on a solid run by the Jazz, and three minutes in, Denver is only up by one, 33-32. Nurkic and Lauvergne have entered the game (Joffrey actually played in the first quarter as well), to mixed results. Some stuttering play from Jusuf (including a confounding turnover) have me wondering if his move to the bench has shaken his confidence a bit. Lauvergne, on the other hand, is having one of his more confident games of his young career. Both players will have a lot of peaks and valleys upcoming, but if they can settle in on the upper bounds they've each shown, the Nuggets frontcourt could be a bright spot in coming years. Gary Harris and Ian Clark join the second quarter youth movement, and several missed shots, bad fouls, and curious assignments later, and Utah suddenly has a 40-33 lead on an 11-0 run halfway through the quarter.
Hunt quickly returns the veterans to the game, but Utah still extends their lead to 14, on 61% shooting through the first 21 minutes. Conversely, Denver is shooting 25% from the field in the second quarter. Not a pretty quarter for Nuggets fans (or basketball fans anywhere, save the Jazz faithful). Some iffy basketball from the boys in blue, as at that point Utah had outscored Denver in the frame 30-9. Denver's shooting has gone cold, with Danilo Gallinari one of seven from the field, and most of those from the perimeter. When Denver is playing small ball as they are tonight, you'd hope to see your frontcourt spending more time in the paint than your backcourt, but it's not running that way in the first half. Denver piscks up their first assist of the quarter from Will Barton with about 45 seconds left in Q2. Ugh.
End of two, the Jazz lead your Denver Nuggets 54-42.
Denver tried to keep it close with more pick-and-roll scoring from Faried down low, but struggles to find other early contributors, and Utah continues to pour it on. Bunnies from Lawson and Faried won't fall by the nine-minute mark, Chandler is still scoreless, and Gallo seems to have taken his poor first half to heart, shutting the shooting down early. By the nine-minute mark of quarter three, Utah has extended their lead to 19.
Some short runs for both teams, but nothing that really makes a dent in Utah's double-digit lead, and Altitude put up a revealing stat about Denver's slide in the game. After their 29-point first quarter, the Nuggets have 27 more points with 2:30 left in the third, and Utah finally stretches their lead past 20. Thank god my wife is knocking out a kick-ass dinner in the next room tonight, or this would all be bourbon and Fritos talking by now. At the end of three, Utah leads Denver 81-59. Crap snacks.
Denver brought Nurkic, Lauvergne, Barton, and Nelson in to join Chandler to start the fourth and get some energy back into the game. Aside from Chandler's first points of the contest at the 9:30 mark, Denver is still down by 20 at that point. After some hot shooting and rebounding from Utah, the lead stretches to 25 by the six-minute mark. Interesting sight... up by 25, and the game firmly in hand on a Wednesday night, not an empty seat to be seen in the views we see at EnergySolutions Arena tonight. I'm not saying Salt Lake City is an entertainment mecca, but a nice showing by a crowd that could have headed home early for work tomorrow. Kudos, Jazz faithful. Send some of that over the hill, please.
With both sides sending in the benches, Denver finally starts to make some inroads late, and with four minutes left in the game, the Nuggets close the gap to 17 points and a quick Utah timeout. Say what you like about Melvin Hunt, good and bad, but he gets the team to play for 48 minutes a night, and there's a lot of long-term value in that.
As expected, it's a little too late for the Nuggets inroads, and even with some scoring punch down low, Denver only gets so far, and we wrap up the evening 98-84.
Stiffs of the Night
Oh... the list here...
Danilo Gallinari, three of 14 in 25 minutes. Wilson Chandler, one of seven in 25 minutes. Randy Foye, two of nine in 28 minutes. That's just the starters. Jusuf Nurkic, two points, two turnovers, and four fouls in 15 minutes. Jameer Nelson, three points in 20 minutes... Let's just say it was a rough evening for MOST of the Nuggets. But...
Studs of the Night
I've been critical of a couple of these gents of late, but Kenneth Faried was the best thing going for Denver most of the evening, with 19 points and 10 boards in 27 tough minutes, mostly against Rudy Gobert. Ty Lawson had 15 points (and only three assists) in his 30 minutes, but kept Denver in the game when it seemed like there still was one. Will Barton was all energy and effort off of the bench, with 13 points and seven rebounds in his 23 minutes. Barton has definitely earned himself a good look from Denver in the offseason. Lauvergne had eight points and three blocks in his 23 minutes, and showed some resilience. Finally, I'll throw a stud vote Melvin Hunt's way for J.J. Hickson's DNP-CD tonight. Sorry, J.J.
A forgettable evening from your Denver Nuggets, which begs the question, why are you reading this? Go forget! Or, share your thoughts on a rough evening below. What say you, Nuggets Nation?