Fri, 20 May 2022

Jazz look to reset fortunes in visit to Denver

Field Level Media
16 Jan 2022, 18:19 GMT+10

The Utah Jazz were on a roll the last time they came to Denver.

They had won seven of eight and made it eight of nine with a 115-109 win over the Nuggets on Jan. 5, even with center Rudy Gobert in the NBA's health and safety protocol.

Utah hasn't won since that night. Four straight losses have slowed down a great start for the Jazz, but with a four-day break and Gobert returning to the lineup, the Jazz have a chance to end their skid when they play at Denver on Sunday night.

For the Nuggets, it will be their second straight home game in as many nights. They routed the Los Angeles Lakers 133-96 on Saturday night.

Gobert made his presence known when he returned to practice on Friday, and not just on the court. Gobert called out his team's play after watching five games, in particular what he saw as a lack of communication in games, habits that are more noticeable in the two top teams in the Western Conference.

"When I watch some of these other teams -- the (Phoenix) Suns, the (Golden State) Warriors -- those guys are a step ahead of us in terms of winning habits," he said. "I feel like they take every game personally. Devin Booker is playing his ass off defensively."

His comments drew a reaction from some teammates, and they weren't necessarily disagreeing with him.

"I think we all, as a group, find ways to hold each other accountable. That's just his way about it, I guess," Donovan Mitchell said. "I'm not really concerned about it. At the end of the day, we all find ways to get better. That's really it. We all have individual ways of doing it, and he just happens to be this way. So, cool."

Utah's best response is to get back to winning.

When the Jazz beat the Nuggets earlier this month it was Bojan Bogdanovic who did most of the damage with 36 points and 13 rebounds. He countered a big game from Nikola Jokic (26 points, 21 rebounds, 11 assists), who might find things tougher against Gobert.

Denver has had its issues, mostly with injuries and illnesses, and could be without two important pieces against Utah. JaMychal Green entered health and safety protocol on Saturday and Austin Rivers missed Saturday's game with a non-COVID-19 related illness.

The Nuggets got some strong play from Bones Hyland (27 points, 10 rebounds) in the win over the Lakers, but it was Jokic who led the way with a 17-point, 13-assist, 12-rebound triple-double. He now has 65 in his career and eight this season.

Hyland has had two strong games after struggling for a stretch. A talk with head coach Michael Malone before Thursday's win over Portland helped the rookie settle down and play better.

"I was so proud of him," Malone said. "... He went out there and did all the things that we talked about. Playing basketball not only for himself, but for his teammates, getting guys involved, driving and kicking, competing on the defensive end, fighting."

--Field Level Media

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