The Nuggets fought hard but couldn’t complete a late comeback as they fell to the Utah Jazz 109-105 on Sunday night.
Jamal Murray was explosive in the first half, putting up 24 points in what looked to be another huge night for him. He alone basically offset Utah’s 48% shooting from three by himself as no one else outside of Jokic could get anything going offensively. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate to the second half. Murray was scoreless in the third and it took until three minutes remaining in the game before he got on the scoresheet again. He finished with 30 but was sorely missed in the third and fourth.
Nikola Jokic was wonderful, per usual, putting up 35 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. Outside of him and Murray, though, no one else on the Nuggets hit double-digits. Will Barton had a very off night and even missed some layups and Millsap had no impact on this game. Gary Harris did make his return and hit two threes and Monte Morris and JaMychal Green were solid off the bench.
Unfortunately, the Nuggets stunk without Jokic on the court. Utah had a clear height advantage over Denver’s reserves which was costly. Depending on how you classify PJ Dozier, Malone ran with a four-guard bench lineup at times (Morris, Campazzo, Murray, Dozier) plus JaMychal Green, including to start the fourth. Utah countered with Gobert and tall bench wings and it resulted in multiple trips to the free throw line for the Jazz as the baby Nuggets just couldn’t defend. Jordan Clarkson finished with 23 points and hit some very timely threes, and Georges Niang chipped in 11 of his own. I like Denver playing small, but the guard bench lineup is too small and it might have cost the Nuggets the game.
Denver had a lot of things goes their way that they just couldn’t capitalize on. Donovan Mitchell only had 2 points in the first half on 1-10 shooting, but the Nuggets only led by five at the intermission. Mitchell would find himself in the second half and finish with 18 points, including a dagger two pointer in the paint to seal the game late in the fourth.
The Nuggets also dominated the glass for a 52-36 rebound advantage, including 23 offensive boards to Utah’s seven. Unfortunately, that hardly translated into meaningful second chance points which is severely disappointing.
Denver had the chance to win this game. A late flurry nearly got them there, but in the end it wasn’t enough to overcome some bad turnovers and a poor offensive outing from basically everyone outside of Jokic and Jamal.