A look at the Nuggets vs. Jazz series with an LA Clippers interest.
The LA Clippers will try to take back control of their opening-round series later today with a win over the Dallas Mavericks. They’ll try to bounce back after a game-two loss in hopes to take a 2-1 lead in the series over the lower-seeded Mavs. Their would-be round two opponents will come from the winner of the series featuring the third-seeded Denver Nuggets and the sixth-seeded Utah Jazz.
Utah took a 2-1 lead in the series with a decisive 124-87 victory today after taking an early lead and not letting up.
The Jazz dominated the first half of play, building a 25-point lead on the back of center Rudy Gobert. The big man went beyond his already strong performance in the opening two games of the series, putting up 20 points on nine of 11 shooting and adding 11 rebounds in the opening half. Utah was able to spread the floor to create room for Gobert to work inside, and the seven-footer was rewarded multiple times by his teammates for hustling down the floor on fast break opportunities.
The inside-out game worked perfectly for the Jazz today. They shot 18-37 from deep as Denver couldn’t stop them in the paint or on the perimeter. Utah pushed their lead to 32 points with just under a minute to play in the third quarter, as Denver seemed to have no answer for their balanced offensive attack.
The Nuggets didn’t help themselves out very much, shooting themselves in the foot with 17 turnovers over the course of the game. Utah took much better care of the ball, only committing ten turnovers throughout.
Mike Conley returned to the lineup for Utah, after leaving the campus to attend the birth of his son. His quarantine ended just in time to make the lineup for the start of game three. Conley made his presence known, contributing to their balanced offensive attack with 27 points including seven three-pointers.
The Jazz proved that the Clippers will have to worry about more than just Donovan Mitchell should the two teams advance to play each other in the second round of the playoffs. Rudy Gobert took advantage of the space provided by Utah’s shooters and played aggressively on both ends of the floor. Conley’s return to the lineup provides the Jazz with steady veteran leadership on the floor and in the locker room.
Denver wasn’t able to adjust to what the Jazz threw at them in game three, and will have to make a mid-series shift in a fast turnaround before game four between the teams on Sunday. In the bubble version of the NBA Playoffs, teams don’t get much time to make adjustments between games, and momentum may mean more than usual without the added benefit of home-court advantage.
Utah seems to be building momentum, but things can change quickly in the NBA playoffs. Denver will need to come out strong in their next meeting to avoid falling behind 3-1. They’ll need to figure out things on the defensive end of the floor if they want to have a chance in the series.