Total Team Effort Propels Utah To Big Win Over Denver

The difference between being a playoff team and a championship-contending team is minuscule but noticeable.

Playoff teams find themselves in close games at the end.

Championship contenders know how to win those close games at the end.

The Utah Jazz are proving to be in that upper echelon of championship contenders–and Tuesday night was another step in that direction.

Led by seven players in double figures, Utah used a big fourth quarter to take down Denver 122-110 in front of a sold-out and raucous Vivint Arena.

“I think that’s a level of maturity for our team that we’re finally starting to get to, starting to see,” Donovan Mitchell said postgame. “A lot of times when you get to a point where teams are pushing or being aggressive, you think so much that you have to be physical right back. … It’s not so much that, I think the biggest thing is to execute while being pushed, execute while being in those instances.”

another one for the W column #TakeNote pic.twitter.com/22vZC3JClM

— utahjazz (@utahjazz) October 27, 2021

Rudy Gobert continued his monster start to the season with his third double-double in as many games, finishing with 23 points and 16 rebounds. 

In the fourth quarter, he ultimately took over, abusing Denver in the post when the Nuggets elected to go small with JaMychal Green and Aaron Gordon taking turns rotating at the center position. 

“I think we started to move the ball more,” Gobert said of what changed in the fourth quarter, where Utah outscored Denver 31-20. “It’s kind of the cycle when we play well defensively, our offense gets better. … I don’t know, I like when that happens, and that’s when we play our best basketball.”

With the Nuggets going small and Utah’s ball movement picking up the pace, Denver elected to foul Gobert and make the Jazz earn the points at the stripe. He did just that, going 8-of-10 from the free-throw line en route to 14 points and eight rebounds in the quarter.

“I was mad at myself for missing four free throws in the first, so they gave me a great opportunity to redeem myself,” Gobert said. “Gotta embrace it. … I know I’m a good free-throw shooter, so I got to knock them down. 

| @rudygobert27: 23p | 16r | 7-8 fg | 1b#TakeNote | @ZionsBank pic.twitter.com/MANWDHrhM9

— utahjazz (@utahjazz) October 27, 2021

The Jazz trailed 93-91 early in the fourth quarter following a Michael Porter Jr. three-pointer. But the team responded with a 19-4 run to take a commanding 13-point lead with just over four minutes remaining.

According to Snyder, it wasn’t the offense where the game changed in the final 12 minutes. It was Utah’s effort on the defensive end. 

“I thought we really responded and defended in the fourth,” Snyder said. “We did a good job on the boards, I think that was a big part. We did a better job contesting shots, we were just more locked in.”

The first half was an offensive clinic for both teams as they shot better than 53% from the floor. 

Mitchell and Clarkson paced Utah with 12 points. 

But despite their efforts, Nikola Jokic continued to play at an MVP level for Denver. He finished the first half with 24 points, six rebounds, and six assists in just 15 minutes of action. 

A freak play took him out of the game when he knocked knees with Gobert late in the second quarter. After being down on the ground and in a significant amount of pain, he walked off under his own power.

“Well first of all, it sounds like he’s okay. … I hope that is the case,” Snyder said of Jokic. 

Mitchell finished the game with 22 points and six assists, while Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic added 15 points each. 

The bench led the way tonight, outscoring the Nuggets 42-13. 

After notching his 8,000th career point, Jordan Clarkson finished with 19 points while Joe Ingles and Hassan Whiteside added 13 and 10, respectively. Clarkson, Ingles, and Eric Paschall all finished with a plus-minus greater than +16.

“I thought Jordan really gave us some boost in the first half. He got some clean looks. … He did a good job of getting into the lane when we needed to attack the rim,” Snyder said. “I thought Joe, particularly when they’re switching and when they’re blitzing, his ability to pass the ball and find people makes it easier on everybody.”

| A milestone night in SLC #podiumpostgame | @podiumhq pic.twitter.com/XCK7avC3oj

— utahjazz (@utahjazz) October 27, 2021

Utah returns to action on Thursday when it faces the Houston Rockets, the first of a three-game road trip. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. MST and will be on AT&T Sports Network.

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