The Denver Nuggets lost 124-111 to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, an ESPN national TV game in which everyone saw just how lethargic and apathetic the Nuggets could be for themselves.

The Jazz won the first three quarters fairly easily, scoring 99 points through the third quarter in what was one of the worst defensive performances of the season for Denver. Michael Malone spoke last Sunday following the win over the Detroit Pistons at home that he wasn’t pleased with Denver’s defensive effort then, and the Jazz made Denver pay by making the wide open three the Nuggets offered up. When it wasn’t threes, the Jazz carved Denver’s interior defense into easy paint points and free throws.

Nikola Jokic was one of the main issues on the interior defensively, but it’s hard to blame the guy that had 27 points on 8-of-9 from the field. Jokic hit 10-of-12 free throws and made himself available as a scorer in the middle of the paint after a slow start. Unfortunately, the Nuggets were playing catch-up the entire time, and every time the Nuggets strung together some good possessions with Jokic offensively, the team defense would shatter.

Jokic did account for 11 rebounds, six assists, and a steal in addition to the 27 efficient points, but he had six turnovers on some ill-advised passes, some of which led to fast break points for the Jazz.

Jokic wasn’t the primary issue though. Denver was underwhelming all across the board, including from Jamal Murray. The Nuggets starting point guard wasn’t ready to go tonight, and though he still scored 17 points and six assists, it was clear that he didn’t bring the necessary focus to attack the Jazz defense. His primary matchup, Kris Dunn, did an excellent job against him, playing a physical brand of defense that Murray struggled to navigate.

Murray, after beginning the season on fire from three-point range, is down to 40.9% from three after shooting 11-of-40 from distance in his last six games, even including the 37-point outburst from Sunday. The shooting efficiency isn’t there right now, and Murray simply hasn’t played the all-around brand of basketball that he excelled in during the beginning portion of the season. There are occasional defensive plays, but the passing and setting the table of the offense aren’t as impactful as they were early on. He simply has to be better.

Michael Porter Jr. struggled to make an impact on Wednesday with just five points and four rebounds in 24 minutes. Porter shot 2-of-9 from the field and 1-of-3 from three, and the shot chart wasn’t kind. Porter rarely found opportunities in valuable zones, attempting two shots at the rim and zero corner threes. The Nuggets struggled to find him all night, but Porter didn’t make matters easier by settling for some bad shots. He had some decent defensive possessions, but the closeouts continue to be an issue with several open threes generated by the Jazz due to slow rotations.

There were other shooting performances that weren’t stellar tonight outside of those two. Peyton Watson shot 1-of-8 from the field, including 1-of-5 from three. His confidence as a three-point shooter has certainly grown, but some of the shots tonight were a bit overzealous. Reggie Jackson shot 2-of-7 and also appeared bothered by Utah’s point guard defenders. Christian Braun hit a three-pointer and went 2-of-4 from the field, but he wasn’t much better as a decision maker on the offensive end either and continues to show limitations as a playmaker.

Really though, this game came down to the starters not playing with the necessary intensity and focus on either end of the floor. Murray was a team worst minus-27 on the plus-minus front. None of the starters were any better than minus-18, highlighting the failings of the unit as a whole. It’s rare for Denver’s starters to get taken to the woodshed like that, but it happens on occasion, and there’s very little the bench can do to counteract it.

Here’s a stronger, more well-rounded effort against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.

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