The final game of the pre-season was an amazing reminder of what pre-season is all about. Players sitting with minor injuries, sloppy play, grainy internet streams, yes this one truly had the full “these games don’t count” feel going. Coach Malone elected to let many regular rotation players rest up from their respective training camp bumps and bruises. Emmanuel Mudiay, Wilson Chandler, Joffrey Lauvergne, Randy Foye, Jameer Nelson and of course Jusuf Nurkic all sat the night out. What met the hodgepodge lineup the Nuggets fielded was a Utah Jazz team that was fired up and ready to end their exhibition games on a high note. The Jazz broke out a 14-0 lead to start the game and would end up leading coast to coast. Final score Jazz 98, Nuggets 78.

The Jazz didn’t get up so quickly on the Nuggets without some help. Sloppy play from Gary Harris and Kenneth Faried to start the game led to some easy points for the opponent. Nick Johnson got the start in place of Mudiay, and didn’t play particularly well. Erick Green would sub-in for him as the first guy off the bench, but he too would have a mediocre game. Interstingly the Jazz started Raul Neto, a stashed 2nd rounder making his debut in the NBA, and he outplayed both Green and Johnson in the first quarter. Once again, the absence of Nurkic was very evident. I like Nikola Jokic, I think he’s going to be an outstanding player, but interior defense is not his strength. Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert dominated the paint on both sides of the ball and showed the outstanding defensive play that was their bread and butter down the stretch last season.

J.J. Hickson rose from the depths of the bench to finally get some burn in the second quarter. However, a blown defensive assignment got him the quick hook from Coach Malone. Despite the fact that Denver was already getting blown out, Danilo Gallinari provided a flurry of scoring in the 2nd quarter that continued to show what he is capable of. He even got a Dirk-esque fade away in there. Gallo looked so good in fact that the Utah announcers spent a good portion of the 3rd quarter showering him with praise. Unfortunately his best efforts were for naught as this was one of those games where every time Denver would get close to striking distance, Utah would crank out a couple of plays and quickly be back up 12-18 points. A perfect example was Darrell Arthur started to heat up from the 3pt line but Utah quickly responded with a 4-0 mini run, led by Gobert’s defense, that closed out the quarter with the Jazz up by 15.

The fourth quarter didn’t offer much entertainment value as both teams seemed to take their foot off the gas, pretty understandable for the last twelve minutes of exhibition basketball. Jokic (or Jokavic according to the Utah announcers…also think I heard a Jurkic in there) utilized his soft touch around the hoop and took advantage of the lackadaisical play to get some easy buckets, including a couple of and 1 opportunities (missed both). Jokic, a 2nd round eurostash from last season, looked far more comfortable than Trey Lyles, the 1st rd pick from from Kentucky There was some Erick Green chucking, another Hickson appearance, and the deed was done.

Things I was watching for:

One game to win a roster spot – Like I said, neither Green nor Johnson played particularly well. I'll give Green this, he's not afraid to shoot it in high pressure situations as he went 3-12 shooting in a game where he was playing for a roster spot. Johnson went just 1-4 from the field in a less than stellar start. Still, with his advantage on the ledger, Johnson may have done just enough to get himself a spot at the end of the bench

Dress Rehearsal – Hey it's pre-season for rookie Stiffs writers too! Coach Malone held several key players out, citing injuries, though I wonder how much of the decision was based off the new technology the team is utilizing to gauge player work loads. He did say on the Altitude Radio pregame show that he had wanted to do a dress rehearsal tonight, but ultimately getting 100% healthy was the most important. Gallo, Gary Harris and Kenneth Faried were the only presumable regular season starters in action tonight. Harris got 32 minutes so it appears that the starting job is his, at least until Randy Foye is ready to return. Harris struggled tonight and his 5-16 shooting, some of which was pretty ugly, is concerning.

The young Jazz – Utah certainly looked like the up and coming young team that’s a dark horse playoff contender. Favors and Gobert put on a dominant performance, and they were supported by solid play from Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke. I was a big Burke booster when he was in the draft, but I’ve cooled on him considerably since then. However, he kept up his nice string of games with another solid performance tonight which could perhaps be a sign that he is in store for a breakout season. The absence of Dante Exum and the fact that he’s going to be backed up by Neto create a golden opportunity for Burke.

I'm going to look at it like this: there are bound to be at least a couple of games every season that are just ugly losses. The last game of the preseason is probably the best time possible for one of those games to occur. It's time to get healed up, rested up and ready for the regular season.

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