The Denver Nuggets were hosting the Utah Jazz at the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver on Friday night looking to even the season-series against the Jazz, who held a 2-1 advantage over the Nuggets prior to tip-off.
The first quarter was a slop-fest for both teams as the matchup became overran with sloppy transition play stemming from a glut of turnovers. Luckily, Jamal Murray was able to start fast and was one of the few reasons the Nuggets were able to trade leads with the Jazz. Murray started the game by shooting a white-hot 3-3 from the field in the first three minutes and stacked up eight points over that span of time. Unfortunately, Ricky Rubio matched Murray’s output and helped the Jazz trade leads with Denver.
Towards the end of the first period of play, the Nuggets’ defense came to life and started making life tough for the Jazz. The defense held strong but shots just were not falling for Denver in the first quarter. To finish the quarter the Nuggets went to a small — but hyper versatile — lineup featuring Will Barton, Malik Beasley, Wilson Chandler, Torrey Craig and Trey Lyles and got some positive momentum back into the game as they went into the second quarter down 26-23.
That momentum gained at the end of the first quarter immediately led to a Lyles scoring eight of the Nuggets’ first 10 points of the second quarter giving Denver a lead of 33-28. Lyles became a one-man wrecking crew against his former team as he proceeded to help the Nuggets go on a 20-8 scoring run with him at center as he accumulated 12 points on four shots in just nine minutes of playing time.
Once the Nuggets’ starters began to re-enter the game is when things began to go awry. The offense began sputtering, the defense was not as crisp or relentless, and the Denver lead quickly fell into a deficit. Murray did what he could to keep the starting unit afloat but it was not enough as the Nuggets went into halftime trailing the Jazz by a score of 49-46.
The Nuggets were creating great offensive looks but shots were not falling. They were rotating very well on defense but consistently came up one rotation short. Throughout the first half, it constantly felt like the Nuggets were ready to pull away but just could not get that kill shot on the Jazz.
Once the third quarter started, Jokic began looking for his own shot but to no avail. Thankfully, the rest of the Nuggets began to see this shot fall as they were able to reclaim the lead behind their defense and Murray’s stellar shooting.
Murray’s aggression was perfectly encapsulated by one possession.
Here is the Jamal Murray offensive rebound and immediate three-pointer. This kid is flat-out bonkers. pic.twitter.com/T1dFcSW7jd
— T.J. McBride (@TJMcBrideNBA) January 6, 2018
Murray flew in to nab an offensive rebound off of a missed three by Harris, sprinted straight to the wing with his eye on the three-point line, turned around, and dropped down a bomb from deep. There are only a handful of players in the NBA that have the capability of making a shot that tough and Murray is undeniably one of those players.
The Nuggets finally were able to string together stops and buckets as they continued to blitz the Jazz for most of the third quarter. The Denver lead ballooned to as many as 19 points in the third frame behind the inspired play of Lyles and Murray.
The Nuggets outscored the Jazz by 22 points in the third quarter by a score of 38-16 and essentially ended all hope of a surprise Jazz win in Denver. In the third quarter, the Nuggets held the Jazz to just 7-17 from the field and just 1-6 from beyond the three-point arc while also forcing the Jazz into seven turnovers in the frame. The Nuggets carried a lead of 19 points into the fourth quarter by a score of 84-65.
The fourth quarter was much of the same as the Nuggets continued to stay on the gas and eventually throttled the Jazz by a final score of 99-91. This Nuggets’ victory over the Jazz ties the season-series at two wins apiece and improves the Nuggets to 21-17 on the year and 14-4 at home. Lyles finished with a career-high 26 points on 9-16 from the field.
The Nuggets now travel to Sacramento next to face the Kings and finish off yet another back to back before heading to Oakland to take on the Golden State Warriors in Oracle Arena.
Click here for full video recap of tonight’s game…