clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Utah Jazz’s win streak was snapped and it stings not because they lost, but how they lost to the Denver Nuggets

The Jazz’s 128-117 loss stung a little bit more than other losses, not just because it was the game that ended their win streak, but because of how they lost the game.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, front, works the ball inside as Utah Jazz center Derrick Favors defends in the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021, in Denver. The Jazz were on the longest win streak of the season with 11 consecutive wins under their belt heading into Sunday’s road game against the Nuggets.
David Zalubowski, Associated Press

The Utah Jazz were on the longest win streak of the season with 11 consecutive wins under their belt heading into Sunday’s road game against the Denver Nuggets. They were playing cohesively, locking down on the defensive end and executing game plans to a T.

They were bound to lose at some point, and the Sunday contest in Denver — the fourth game in six days, and after six straight games at home — was going to be a tough game for the Jazz no matter what.

But the Jazz’s 128-117 loss stung a little bit more than other losses, not just because it was the game that ended their win streak, but because of how they lost the game.

“We felt like we didn’t play our best in the loss,” Donovan Mitchell said. “I think that’s what hurts. Especially the way we played the past two games back home against Dallas.”

The Jazz players and their fans would have had a different feeling if the Jazz had went down swinging, if the game had been closer, if the Jazz had played up to the level that they’ve been playing over the last three weeks. Instead, they made mistakes early and often against the Nuggets which led to Denver winning pretty easily.

“It’s just the way it happened,” Mitchell said. “I think that’s what kind of stings, because it’s things that we can control.”

The first thing that went wrong was that Nikola Jokic got going early, with little resistance. Once a great player sees the ball go in a few times, it’s hard to take them out of a rhythm, no matter what the defense is doing, and Jokic is a great basketball player who can punish even the best of defenders on a good night.

“We cross matched, we played zone, we doubled, we played man,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “But ultimately I think regardless of what you do, we have to play with more of an edge and more urgency.”

Opening up with a few uncontested shots from deep and some easy buckets at the rim, Jokic went off for 33 first-half points and finished with 47 overall.

The Jazz did play Jokic better in the second half, but by then it was too little, too late.

“That’s tough once a player is going, they start hitting shots, and especially somebody his caliber that gets 20 shots or whatever,” Derrick Favors said after the game. “It’s kind of tough to take that player out of his zone ... in the second half we made it a little bit more tough for him, but by that time he was already going, the whole team was hitting shots and they were on fire.”

There’s blame to go around for Jokic getting going early in the game and gaining confidence, and then there’s also something to be said for a player that just has it going. Sometimes you’re going to come up against someone on a night when it seems like they can’t miss.

But, you also can’t give that kind of a player easy buckets and putback opportunities. That speaks more to the effort of the defending team, and in this case, the Jazz.

There were multiple times the Jazz failed to secure a rebound by just watching as Jokic got one or two rebounds on the same play even when he was surrounded by Jazz players.

As Mitchell noted, there were things that the Jazz knew they could do better, but didn’t. Rebounding is one of them, turnovers are another and the majority of the Jazz’s 15 turnovers on Sunday came on bad or ill-timed passes.

There’s no reason for anyone to panic. Teams are not going to regularly shoot 64% from 3-point range against the Jazz and the Jazz aren’t going to win every game of the season. If they want to avoid the sting of a bad loss they’ll have to put up a little more of a fight.

For now, as Gobert would say, “on to the next one.” It’s just one loss and the Jazz had an off day.

They’ll be back at home to play the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday and Thursday respectively before heading out on a three-game Eastern Conference road trip.