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Can the Utah Jazz keep relying so heavily on the 3-pointer against the Denver Nuggets?

SHARE Can the Utah Jazz keep relying so heavily on the 3-pointer against the Denver Nuggets?
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Utah Jazz’s Joe Ingles shoots against the Denver Nuggets during the third quarter of Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Mike Ehrmann, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz finished the 2019-2020 regular season with the highest 3-point percentage in the NBA, making exactly 38% of their shots from distance. 

Even without sharpshooting forward Bojan Bogdanovic in the Orlando bubble, it made sense that the Jazz would want to keep attempting 3s, an idea head coach Quin Snyder emphasized throughout the team’s eight seeding games.

“We’re going to keep shooting. That’s what we do. That’s what Coach wants us to do.” — Mike Conley

As Utah’s first-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets has unfolded, 3-point shooting has become a big determining factor in deciding the outcomes of games. Most notably, the Jazz shot a ridiculous 47% from distance in Games 2-4, all wins, after shooting just 34% in a Game 1 loss (the Nuggets shot 54% from deep in Game 1 and 39% in Games 2-4).

It’s true that Utah’s offense generated a ton of great 3-pointers in the victories, but even that being the case, could the Jazz keep up the blistering pace in Game 5 on Tuesday evening with a chance to eliminate the Nuggets and move to the second round of the postseason?

Early on it certainly looked like it, as the Jazz made four triples in the first 3 minutes and 16 seconds of the contest and were hovering around the 50% mark after three quarters, having made 15. But then in the fourth quarter as the Nuggets completed the erasure of a 15-point deficit in the third stanza, Utah’s 3-point shooting disappeared.

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

Statistically speaking, the Jazz went just 1 of 5 from the perimeter in the fourth quarter. Perhaps more notable is the fact that they attempted just three 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes and 20 seconds of the frame, missing them all, as a desperate Denver team ramped up its defensive pressure to a level it hadn’t all series.

In what will be at or near the top of the list of most painful sequences for Utah during the stunning collapse, Royce O’Neale passed up a wide open 3-pointer with just over three minutes to play and the Jazz down two only to travel a few seconds later.

Nuggets star Jamal Murray hit a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, the third, fourth and fifth points of a decisive 9-0 run for Denver.

Despite faltering from distance late, Utah guard Mike Conley, who went just 2 for 6 from deep Tuesday after going a ridiculous 11 of 16 in Games 3 and 4 (he missed Games 1 and 2), said the team will continue to try to rely on the trifecta to advance to the second round.

“We’re going to keep shooting,” Conley said. “That’s what we do. That’s what Coach wants us to do.”

At the same time, Conley noted how important it is that they’re able to penetrate into the lane to start their “blender” offense, something that largely went away late on Tuesday.

“For the most part this series, we’ve been able to get that penetration and get down in the paint and guys looking for each other on the kickouts and extra passes and making (the Nuggets) rotate,” he said. “We need a little bit more of that going forward, but I think we’ll continue to shoot.”

But will the law of averages continue to swing against the Jazz and in the Nuggets’ favor?

“I thought a lot of our looks were really good,” Conley said. “Some of them didn’t fall, but next game hopefully it will be different.”