Nuggets/Jazz Game 3 Recap
Who needs Okur when you have Millsap?
by Sulaiman Folarin
Denver’s coach Adrian Dantley thought he would have a great homecoming against Utah in Salt Lake City. He played there and even had a banner at the arena. A win would swing momentum back to his Nuggets.
But Paul Millsap’s 9-9 shooting at half time played a huge role to douse that thought and catapult the Jazz to a 105-93 home win over Denver to take a 2-1 lead in their Western Conference Playoff series.
Down by six points in the first quarter, the Jazz rallied to a win that was more surprising not because Denver looked sloppy at times, but Utah’s bench scoring and the Nuggets passive defense.
Millsap, who finished the game with 22 points and 19 rebounds off the bench, made every shot until the third quarter. By the end of that quarter, the Jazz were already up by 16. Before Friday’s game, his Playoff high was 17 points against the Los Angeles Lakers, which was two seasons ago and Millsap had never made more than seven field goals in a post-season game.
Millsap’s performance was great because it allowed Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer back in the game as both superstars had struggled to begin Game 3.
The Nuggets started off well though, looking like the divisional champs, but Millsap played a pivotal role in the 8-2 run to start the second quarter, a quarter Utah won 31-21.
Heading into the half, the Nuggets were only down by four points with the score at 52-48 so it looked like a game would ensure once the second half started. Also Chauncey Billups led all Nuggets into the half with 15 points and a great 6-8 shooting, but by the third quarter, everything went downhill, even for BIllups himself. Billups missed crucial field goal attempts and finished with seven-for-14 shooting with 25 points.
Shooting was not the only problem for Denver. Their defense was absent along with their effort, strolling down the court, making countless mindboggling turnovers at crucial moments in the game as Denver finished with an eye popping 14 turnovers.
They also were poor on transition defense as the Jazz drove to the hoop on numerous occasions without any Nugget to stop them. In the third quarter, Utah outscored Denver 32-20 with Carmelo Anthony picking up two careless fouls putting him at number five before the third quarter was even over.
Anthony mentioned after losing Game 2 that he had a sour taste in his mouth fouling out. It didn’t look like much changed heading into the fourth in Salt Lake.
But the bigger news for the night was the bench scoring, something Millsap played a pivotal part in. Combined with Kyle Korver, both players scored 30 points off the bench; no other bench player scored for Utah as the Jazz’s bench outscored Denver’s bench 25.
More telling was the assist category. With Williams putting up a game high 12 dimes, the Jazz had 27 compared to Denver’s measly 12 assists.
Though the Nuggets looked on paper the better team, Utah played team basketball with Williams finishing with 24 points and 10 assists. Boozer also chipped in 18 points and eight rebounds.
The Nuggets will have to play better defense and pass the ball better if they hope to win this series which looks more in favor of the Jazz now, but like we’ve heard with the NBA slogan this is “where Amazing happens.”