1. After going down as much as 15 in the third quarter the Utah Jazz behind Alec Burks, “Iso” Joe Johnson and what I like to call Waffle House defense claimed a season opening win over the Denver Nuggets. Alec Burks scored 16 on 7 of 10 shooting off the bench. “Iso” Joe gave the 13 point with 9 of them during that all important second half run. In an attempt to remedy their issue of who would fill the scoring void without Hayward it appears that all of the Jazz raised their hands as Utah scored 6 in double figures. Led by Rudy “The Stifle Tower” Gobert’s 18 points on 7 of 9 from the field the Jazz’s egalitarian approach to offense stymied an already weak Denver D.
Utah shot the ball pretty damned well last night. As a team their splits were 50-37-93. Not saying they can do this every night but if they can when they are playing like this it will be hard for anyone to beat them. Derrick Favors put up 14 on 50% shooting, Ingles went for 11 on 4 of 6, even the normally ofeesnively avers Thabo Sefolosha got his 7 on 3 of 7 shooting. Rodney Hood couldn’t quite get it going as he ony had 4 attempts but I expect that this is an exception and not the norm. Quite honestly, this is how Utah will need ot play against the weaker defense in the association. Their margin for error is very slight in this department. Luckily you don’t need much O with a D like this.
2. Last night (and on most nights I expect) Utah played what I like to call Waffle House defense. The Jazz were scattered all across the court and they smothered, covered, capped and topped the Nuggets at just about every opportunity in the second half. The Nuggets are widely regarded to have one of the best offenses in the league and there is plenty of opportunity to still think so. In spite of them getting shut down for the better part of the second half they still shot in splits of 47-48-92. But in a fourth quarter in which they were outscored 28-13 they shot only 5 of 15 from the floor. The Jazz forced 21 turnovers with an astonishing 10 of them in the final frame which goes to show sometimes timing is everything. They also had 9 steals to go with 5 blocks. With most teams a model like this would reek of unsustainability but Utah has the guys to raise hell like this every time they step on the court. And against top offenses no less.
3. Well, I more or less documented how it all went from sugar to shit for the Nuggs last night so let’s see what worked for them. Will “The Mechanic” Barton was one thing for sure. The Mechanic in 31 minutes off the bench exploded for 23 points and 6 boards. For all that the Utah defense was able to do Barton’s athleticism remained a problem for them. Paul Milsap had a good showing in his Denver debut putting up 19 and 6 although his 5 turnovers put a damper on his night. Gary Harris efficient as always scored 14 along with 5 boards and 3 dimes on 5 of 7 shooting but at $21 million a year he’ll need to find a way to assert himself in this offense to get more touches. Nikola Jokic had issues getting the ball in hoop but was useful otherwise grabbing 12 rebounds and tossing 8 assists.
Other than that there was nothing really to write home about. The crux of Denver’s difficulties remain at the point guard position. Between new starter Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay the ones combined for only 16 points on 5 of 14 shooting with only 4 assists to 3 turnovers. Both are exceptionally talented young men but neither of them are ready to take the controls of an NBA offense. Surprisingly Wilson Chandler also looked flat last night not even hitting double digits sputtering to 9 points on 4 of 11. For a team normally lauded for their balance they lack it last night. While much of it can be attributed to a bad trip to Waffle House I think there’s plenty of blame to place on themselves.