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Recap: Nuggets dominated on ESPN, lose on the road to Utah Jazz 106-77

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Blegh. So much to hate.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets forgot to show up in the second half tonight, losing to the Utah Jazz 106-77. Denver scored just 28 points in the entire second half, and Nikola Jokic failed to elevate the Nuggets on a difficult night. Basically everyone had a tough night, but Kenneth Faried, Jamal Murray, and Emmanuel Mudiay were lowlights, allowing their counterparts to shoot open jumpers consistently and failing to match the intensity on the offensive end. Derrick Favors dominated Jokic to the tune of 24 points on 16 shots, which Donovan Mitchell proved to be just as good, if not better, than Jamal Murray already.

With Wilson Chandler sitting this game out with a sore back, Juancho Hernangomez got the start at small forward for the Nuggets. Gary Harris opened the game aggressively, scoring the first five points of the game and drawing a screening foul on defense. Nikola Jokic had some elite moments passing to begin, but turnovers and bad shot attempts by Denver’s guards limited the offense. On the other end, Ricky Rubio hit two early threes as a 28% three-point shooter. Hernangomez made his impact felt on both ends as well, putting together eight productive minutes and helping Denver jump out to a 19-14 lead.

As soon as Jokic went to the bench though, the team began to collapse on both ends. Thabo Sefolosha made his presence felt as a small ball 4, generating steals due to poor ball handling from the Nuggets. Trey Lyles was bad on both ends in his first stint, and the Nuggets gave up enough open shots to allow the Jazz to take the lead to end the first quarter 26-24.

Denver’s bench recovered in the second quarter and did a better job defensively limiting open shots. The offense wasn’t good with four bench players in, but it was passable given the defensive effort. Hernangomez really looks to have made a jump on that end and as a rebounder, as he deflected many passes, grabbed many rebounds, and was a positive force throughout.

As the starters filed back in though, the Jazz came back. Jerebko was having his way with Faried on both ends and frustrated the Manimal throughout this game. Murray made some bad decisions with the basketball, and Denver simply missed some open shots. The defense kept them ahead though, as Denver took a 49-48 lead into halftime on a Faried tip shot at the buzzer.

Denver started the third quarter as poorly as possible with a missed layup, Faried giving up an open three, Hernangomez and Harris combining for a turnover, and Faried missing a rotation to give up an open layup. These were probably Faried’s worst minutes of the season, and he was benched within the first three minutes of the third. Murray wasn’t much better, giving up layups and easy penetration to Rubio, who dissected the defense with layups and money passes to three point shooters.

The bench filed in and couldn’t keep the game close. The offense was again disjointed, but this time around, the defense wasn’t there. Denver reached 16 turnovers after a full three quarters, and the only person seemingly interested in moving off-ball and creating shots that way was Harris. It was a miracle that Denver wasn’t down more than the 76-66 deficit they finished the third quarter with.

The fourth quarter began with no Jokic on the floor, and even when he came on the floor, Mudiay decided dribbling into three defenders was a better idea, good for his fifth turnover in 19 minutes. Terrible shot selection burned the Nuggets offense to the ground tonight. Nikola Jokic looked awful tonight, even air-balling a wide open three. This was just not Denver’s night.

Three takeaways

Derrick Favors thoroughly outplayed Nikola Jokic. Favors is a difficult matchup for Jokic, but this was just absurd. The Utah big man had 24 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks tonight on 12/16 from the field. The Jazz put Jokic in the pick and roll nearly every time down the floor, and he failed to stop most everyone. On the other end, Jokic had just 7 points, 5 of which came in the first quarter. He lost all of his aggressiveness in the second half, and the Nuggets followed his lead. A poor showing from Denver’s leader tonight.

It’s time for Juancho Hernangomez to play more. Hernangomez scored just 7 points tonight, but his presence was so much more impactful than that. On top of grabbing nine rebounds, he was probably Denver’s best defender tonight. He gave Joe Ingles and the Utah ball handlers the most trouble. With Wilson Chandler dealing with an ailing back and struggling anyway, Denver needs another guy to step up. Hernangomez needs to be that guy.

Emmanuel Mudiay is an anchor. As soon as he came into the game, the offense became a mess. Turnover after turnover with poor reads, an inability to make shots, and bad defense will doom the Nuggets in a playoff race. This is probably Mudiay’s seventh straight bad game, and while Murray was bad tonight as well, he has at least offset the bad with quality play most of the time. If Denver wants to be a playoff team, they cannot keep dealing with this. It’s absurd.