The Utah Jazz broke their five-game losing streak with a 108-104 win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night at Vivint Arena.
- The Jazz were missing their two best players, their reserve center and their sixth man. They were coming off a game in which they lost Joe Ingles to a horrific injury for the rest of the season. They had lost five games in a row and only won four games over the last month. Oh and they didn’t even have their head coach on the sidelines. I don’t care that this game was against a Nuggets team that didn’t have Nikola Jokic, Aaron Gordon, Jamal Murray, DeMarcus Cousins and whoever else. The Jazz needed a win and they needed it by any means necessary. They just needed a break from all the bad stuff and they deserved it.
“The last couple games we’ve been right there at the end and haven’t been able to pull it out. So, it was kind of the same thing tonight but we were able to finally get this one. It was definitely kind of a relief for us. In the locker room everybody was happy.” — Trent Forrest
- Trent Forrest was absolutely superb on Wednesday night. He finished with a game-high 18 points on 6 of 7 shooting, went 5 of 6 from the free throw line, hit a 3-pointer, dished out eight assists and had zero turnovers. But more than his stat-line was his overall demeanor. Forrest was under such control and made all the right decisions on top of playing sound defense. The Jazz are going to need so much from Forrest in the coming days and he’s given them no reason to think that he can’t handle what’s going to be thrown at him
“Trent is really good. A lot of those young guys are really good. Trent was poised. I told him to attack and told him I wanted to see him get into the paint and make plays, especially if me and him are going to be playing together — I’ll space and let him make decisions. I trust him more than anybody. His ability to attack the rim and finish is huge. He’s a big guard and he plays so unselfishly that we want him to be aggressive.” — Mike Conley
- The first time that Udoka Azubuike was told he was going to start in an NBA game was last month against the Denver Nuggets and he didn’t believe assistant coach Alex Jensen when he was delivered the news. Once again he started against the Denver Nuggets, but at least this time it wasn’t against Jokic, the reigning MVP. Azubuike held his own in that Jan. 5 game against the Nuggets and he did so again on Wednesday. He gave extra effort contesting outside shots, even when the rotation was hard or he was late, he didn’t give up on plays and he even dove on the floor to fight for loose balls. There have definitely been times when he’s been on the floor and it didn’t look like he was a viable option, but in both of the games when the Jazz didn’t have any other traditional center, Azubuike has risen to the occasion and gave it everything he had.
- The Jazz’s elder statesmen of the night — Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Rudy Gay and Royce O’Neale — were all so instrumental. I mentioned Dok diving to the floor and sacrificing his body for a play, but we saw the same thing out of each of the Jazz’s veterans. While the Jazz got some really good stuff from their younger players, it was the wisdom and grit of their vets that carried them to a victory and there’s really not enough you can say about those guys.
- Jared Butler has a ton of raw talent and is going to be very good when it comes time to give him a regular spot in a rotation. It might be a while before that happens, and he still needs to develop a lot of that raw talent, but the flashes you see from him are so impressive. He is so crafty with the ball and so good at getting to the rim that it can make you forget that this is his rookie season and that he’s been so limited in his NBA minutes.
- The Jazz missing so many of their regular guys and still taking care of the ball the way they did needs to be applauded. Just seven turnovers all night and they rarely let the Nuggets score on those mishaps.
- I really want good things for Elijah Hughes and I believe in him as a player. This isn’t really going to be a low note so much as it is an informative and hopeful one. Hughes has all the makings to be a good player in this league. He’s got great length and height and he’s a pure scorer — it’s his defense that needs to improve. But think about where Forrest was defensively before he started getting regular minutes. It’s incredibly difficult to know how to guard NBA talent if you rarely are guarding NBA talent. I really do think that with more reps that Hughes could develop into a viable defender. That might not happen on this team, but it will happen eventually even if it’s not here.
- Fans hoping to see the stars of divisional rivals duke it out and the viewers of ESPN were probably not happy to see a game in which Forrest, Azubuike and Zeke Nnaji were starters. But, even inside of that disappointing fact, I think we can find a silver lining. Teams like the Jazz and the Nuggets are so banged up and bruised that having a competitive game that was exciting but also gave guys a chance to recover and rest up is an absolute positive. It’s a good thing to give Jordan Clarkson and Hassan Whiteside a chance to breathe and take a step back. That could end up doing them a lot of good moving forward.