The Utah Jazz progress is palpable. Just 18 days after falling 117-100 to the Denver Nuggets, the Jazz came to play Sunday in a rematch in the Mile High City. In a spirited effort, Utah defeated the Nuggets 106-96 to earn their second road victory of the season and moved to an unexpected 8-4 record.
Despite being bit by the injury bug and playing the second of a back-to-back, Tyrone Corbin’s team hustled and displayed great energy throughout. They played the passing lanes, dove for loose balls, and fought hard on the boards.
Frontcourt Dominance: Utah was led again by the veteran front court of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. Each produced a double-double, the former with 26 points and 12 rebounds, the latter with 18 and 12 of his own. Millsap put the team on his back in the fourth quarter, at one juncture scoring 12 consecutive points on an array of sly moves and jumpers.
Not to be outdone, starting small forward Gordon Hayward added 17 points, four rebounds, and three assists. He made some crucial lay-ups down the final stretch.
The only negative was the medical situation, as forward Derrick Favors went down with an ankle sprain after playing just seven minutes. Small forward Josh Howard also sat out due to injury.
Just enough Defense: The Denver Nuggets are among the NBA’s most dynamic team on offense. And while they did not shut them down entirely, the Jazz did just enough. The proof’s in the pudding:
- Coming into the game, Denver was second in overall scoring. Sunday night? 96 points, nearly nine points below their 104.8 points per game average.
- The Nuggets were the league’s most accurate shooting team, 49.2 percent. Utah held them to 42.7 percent from the field. Eight of Denver’s 10 regulars were held below their season field-goal percentage.
- The team that runs and guns their way to 23 fast break points an outing was held to 11 Sunday.
- Denver was fourth in the NBA in point differential at +6.7 ppg. Obviously a 10-point loss will alter that stat.
- Although Denver nearly doubled Utah’s free throw attempts, 39-20, the Nuggets did not take advantage. The Nuggets shot just 66.7 percent from the free throw line.
David Smith is providing instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage this season. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.