Nuggets/Jazz Game 2 Recap
Deron Williams carries Jazz on his back to even series.
by Sulaiman Folarin
DENVER, Colorado — Without Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur, the Utah Jazz shot 68 percent in the first half and went on to beat Denver 114-111 Monday night, in Game 2 of their Western Conference Playoffs, tying the series 1-1 as they head back to Salt Lake City.
Deron Williams, who was limited to 6 points in the first half of Game 1, scored 23 of his 33 points at the half Monday night in Game 2. Yes you read that right; Williams dropped 23 points on Denver in one half as the Nuggets went down by 12 points 63-51 at half time.
Rather than implode even with two the injuries, the Jazz dug deep and relied on their two major contributors Carlos Boozer and Williams with both players combining for 53 of Utah’s 114 points.
“He had control of the basketball and did a lot of great things for us… he had a terrific game,” Jerry Sloan said of his point guard’s performance against the Nuggets.
The Jazz also relied on their bench as well with Kyle Korver hitting big shots down the stretch. One was a huge three pointer in the last couple of minutes to finish the game. “I was kind of open a lot in the fourth quarter, Korver said. “Never wide open, but kind of open and I kept telling myself, ‘be ready.’”
Carmelo Anthony might have not scored 42 points Monday night, but he carried the load again for Denver scoring 32 points, but the small forward fouled out of the game even though Jazz swingman C.J. Miles stepped out of bound on the play before the foul was committed.
“Yeah, it is not a good feeling… it will wear on me tonight, Anthony said on fouling out. “Tomorrow is a different story.”
“Him [Anthony] not being in the game 45, 50 seconds of the game was huge for us,” Boozer added.
Anthony and Chauncey Billups refused to would address the officiating at the press conference though it was obvious they were upset with some of the questionable calls during game.
The referees seem whistle happy in Game 2. Both teams shot a combined 91 free throws with Williams getting to the line 18 times and Anthony taking 15 free throw shot attempts with Anthony having another quality game.
“Sometimes you get tired of taking a butt kicking,” Sloan said of his team stopping Anthony. “You have to step up and fight back a little bit. I thought out guys tried to do that, although we can’t stop him.”
Even as the Nuggets missed their star player during crunch time and the officiating had some question marks, the reality of Game 2 was that the Nuggets started off playing poor defense against a Utah team that was missing two key starters for the series.
The Jazz never looked like a wounded team rather a group searching for the swing to get home court advantage.
“This is a big win for us,” Williams said. “Everything that is going on injury wise and nobody really giving us a shot, we just wanted to come out here and put that to rest.”
At a point in the first quarter though, Sloan got a scare as Williams, on the breakaway, was foul by Anthony. Sloan was at half court in a split second while his point guard was on the floor for a quick minute that looked like ages.
The questions around the building was if they were about to lose another player to injury, but Williams got up knocked down the free throws and left the game only to return and burn the Nuggets.
Coach Adrian Dantley had talked about their lack of defense in Game 1. Nothing changed in the first half of Game 2 either.
As the Nuggets walked off the floor at half time, their fans made sure the team knew how they felt as they booed profusely with the team down big.
“We didn’t come out with the necessary intensity in the first half, Dantley said. “The second half we decided to pick it up and play with that kind of intensity and passion in the first half.”
The Nuggets came out firing all cylinders in the third quarter, playing defense, but still sent the Jazz to the free throw line 12 times. Anthony and Kenyon Martin led all scorers for Denver in the third as the Nuggets chipped into the Jazz’s 12 point lead.
By the end of the third quarter, the Nuggets had cut the lead down to six points with Utah leading 88-82. But in the fourth quarter Denver gave up 26 points to Utah, 14 points of that total were points in the paint by the Jazz.
A couple of missed free throws, missed opportunities and defense cost Denver their home court advantage against a team without two starters.
“Their team is a wounded team, Billups said.” They came out and took care of business. We have to go and steal home court back again.”