After a disastrous meltdown caused a very disappointing loss on Wednesday, the Utah Jazz looked like a different team on Friday. They had no difficulties whatsoever, handily defeating the lethargic Denver Nuggets 104-82.
Why the Jazz won: Behind great energy on both ends of the court, the Jazz absolutely pounced on Denver. Utah darted out to an early double-digit lead in the first quarter and never looked back. It imposed its will and Denver seemingly gave up in the first half. Utah’s offense was clicking, with some deft passing leading to good shots all evening. The Jazz were aggressive defensively and shut down Denver’s attack. It was a very balanced effort, as five players scored in double-digits.
Turning point: It was one of those games where it was essentially over not long after it began. Utah had 6-0 and 10-0 runs and before anyone could blink, it was up 17-3.
What it means: Utah did something it failed to do on Wednesday: it took care of a struggling opponent mired in the midst of injuries and transitions. In a dramatic improvement over last season, the Jazz are having much better success against the lower-echelon teams.
Grading the performance: Even though they had won four of their previous six games, the Jazz looked very anxious to get back to some winning ways. They played with a sense of urgency that helped decide the game’s outcome in the first half. Derrick Favors, Trey Burke and Gordon Hayward set the tone and as a result, no one played more than 32 minutes. Utah’s defensive improvement over the past 15 games has been a very bright positive for head coach Quin Snyder and company.
Utah Jazz grade: A-
The Nuggets lacked effort, energy and cohesion. Their offensive sets seemed half-hearted, especially thanks to Utah’s stout interior defense. Normally a high-flying team that likes to get the ball up and down the court, Denver was lead-footed and only had seven fast-break points. Dante Exum and Trey Burke managed to help contain Ty Lawson to just six points and six assists.
Denver Nuggets grade: D
Three telling stats:
— A simple look at the each team’s shooting clearly shows Utah’s dominance. It managed to shoot 57 percent from the floor, including 9-of-21 3-pointers. After struggling from the free-throw line over the past 10 games or so, the Jazz connected on 81 percent.
— Conversely, the Nuggets could not throw a ball in a lake. It took some garbage time baskets to bring them up to 33.3 percent shooting. Their perimeter game was off, too, as they were just 8-of-32 from downtown.
— Winning can be easy when you record 13 steals and 15 blocked shots, as Utah did.
Up next: The Jazz return to EnergySolutions Arena to host the Milwaukee Bucks. While the Bucks are without touted rookie Jabari Parker, they are incorporating newcomers Michael Carter-Williams, Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis, all acquired last week in a trade.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.