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Will the Utah Jazz have the right mentality in Game 4 to blow series open against Denver Nuggets?

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Utah Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson, right, and Denver Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr. (1) reach for the ball as Nuggets’ Mason Plumlee (7) and Jazz’s Tony Bradley (13) look on during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Ashley Landis, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Throughout the last week as the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets have begun their first-round NBA playoff series, Utah head coach Quin Snyder has emphasized the idea that it’s indeed a series, that both sides should be prepared to dig in for the long haul.

That message was pertinent for the shorthanded Jazz after they let Game 1 slip away, but now as they’ve flipped the series on its head with blowout wins in the last two contests, those words perhaps hold the same weight, even if the context behind them has changed.

“I’ve been here. I know that the series can shift in so many different ways. We’ve just got to continue to keep fighting and continue to be consistent, to play together and have fun while we do it.” — Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley

With Utah wins of 19 points on Wednesday and 37 points on Friday in Orlando, how each squad is mentally prepared for Sunday night’s Game 4 could be a big determining factor in who comes out on top. Will the Jazz be aggressive in trying to blow the series open, or will they get complacent? Will the Nuggets put up a level of fight they haven’t the last two games or have they checked out of the series?

“We have to be ready to play the next game and maintain our focus and our intensity,” Snyder said Friday after Game 3. “That’ll be the challenge. I think our team is capable of doing that. They want to do that. Obviously we’re playing against a very good team.”

Utah veteran point guard Mike Conley is now in the 11th playoff series of his career, and so far this one is playing out like a number of others he’s been involved in over the years, with one side taking the edge early only to see the other rally back.

“I’ve been here. I know that the series can shift in so many different ways,” he said Friday after scoring 27 points in his 2020 playoff debut. “We’ve just got to continue to keep fighting and continue to be consistent, to play together and have fun while we do it.”

Jazz-Nuggets playoff schedule

(3) Denver Nuggets

vs. (6) Utah Jazz

Game 1

Nuggets 135, Jazz 125 (OT)
Game 2

Jazz 124, Nuggets 105
Game 3

Jazz 124, Nuggets 87
Game 4

Jazz 129, Nuggets 127
Game 5

Nuggets 117, Jazz 107
Game 6

Nuggets 119, Jazz 107
Game 7

Nuggets 80, Jazz 78, Nuggets win series 4-3

Echoing Snyder’s notion that each game of a series is its own entity, Conley noted that it doesn’t ultimately matter how much the Jazz have dominated the past two games. The fact remains that if Denver wins Sunday, the series will be tied up again, a far cry from Utah having a hold on it.

“Obviously each win is important. For us to have two right now is great, but whether you win by one or 20, they’re all just one win,” Conley said. “In the same way, if we were to lose by 20 points, we have to come back and lace them up and come with adjustments for the next game.”

While the Jazz are trying to stay focused and even-keeled heading into Game 4, it is true that they’ve absolutely been the better team the past two games. It hasn’t been competitive on either end of the floor, unlike the previous four meetings between the two sides this season, all of which were tight down the stretch. 

“Obviously credit to the coaching staff for the position they’ve put us in, and then to the players for going out and executing it,” Utah forward Joe Ingles said Saturday, “but it’s still a long way to go. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves at all.”

Still, the fact that the Jazz played so well, especially in Game 3, gives center Rudy Gobert confidence that they can keep it going on Sunday.

“The good thing is that we played our game,” he said Friday. “There’s nothing that we did that I haven’t seen from this team before. We’re playing hard, we’re communicating on defense and offensively, we’re attacking the basket and moving the ball. I know that Mike, Joe, Donovan (Mitchell) can all make those shots every night, so it’s all about doing the right thing and making the right play.”