Nuggets/Jazz Game 6 Recap
Carlos Boozer leads Utah past Denver.
by Sulaiman Folarin
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Old habits they say die hard. Actually they never leave you and the Denver Nuggets went back to old habits when they returned to Salt Lake City.
Though they played better defense, their shooting let them down as Carlos Boozer’s 22 points and 20 rebounds led the Utah Jazz to a 112-104 win over the Nuggets as Utah clinched the first round series in Game 6 at home.
Rather than a return trip to the Mile High City and its altitude on Sunday, Utah will be heading to the bright lights of Los Angeles instead to face Kobe Bryant and the NBA champions Lakers.
Only eight teams have done what the Nuggets were attempting to do; come back from a three games deficit. The last two teams to accomplish that were the Phoenix Suns and the Detroit Pistons.
Chauncey Billups, who finished with a team-high 30 points had been there before with the Pistons in 2003 against the Orland Magic, then led by Tracy McGrady. But that Pistons team had Ben Wallace on the defensive end, an unpredictable Rasheed Wallace, a younger Billups, a slick Tayshaun Prince and the multi-screen cutting Richard Hamilton.
The point is they spread the ball in Detroit and played team basketball, which is completely different from the Nuggets’ style.
As the game started, Denver attempted to kill the noise at a venue regarded as the loudest arena in the NBA. Maybe a self-proclaimed title, but the EnergySolutions Arena was so loud that at certain points in the game announcers could not hear each other and questions were asked twice during interviews.
The Jazz started off well knowing that a possible Game 7 would give the Nuggets momentum again so Utah finished off with a strong first quarter with their 32-23 lead. Denver’s Carmelo Anthony, who finished with 21 points, did not look good in the first quarter either as he started the game with a 1-5 shooting for five points.
The Nuggets also gave up way too many points in the paint, or maybe the Jazz were just better positioning themselves around the basket.
Once again Denver returned to its typical one-on-one basketball on offense, which did not help as they only had four assists compared to Utah’s 14 at a certain point in the game.
The second quarter was a lot more different compared to the first for Denver though.
With players in foul trouble, coach Adrian Dantley tossed swingman Joey Graham a lifeline and the five-year veteran out of Oklahoma State did not disappoint.
Shortly after coach Dantley had picked up a technical foul on what was a questionable call on Anthony when he collided with Wesley Matthews, the Nuggets went on a 19-3 run led by Graham during that stretch.
Denver would close the half with points from an unfamiliar and unlikely Graham scoring 8-for-10 in the half with 19 points. Graham had averaged 4.2 ppg this season, and had only seen minimal minutes during the post-season, but played about 25 minutes on Friday night.
With Graham’s hot hand — he finished the game with 21 points — Denver cut the Jazz lead down to two points heading into the half with a manageable 18-for-40 shooting also.
For a team that trailed by as much as 15 points, the Nuggets looked like they were about to send the game back to Denver for Game 7.
To start the second half, the Nuggets went on a 10-0 run as BIllups led the surge with back-to-back three pointers scoring 15 of his 30 points in the third alone. Billups also took advantage of Deron Williams’ foul troubles, but the Jazz still kept it close with Boozer and Paul Millsap getting to the paint.
Utah would not go away. They were on their own run too with an 11-3 run that saw Boozer and Millsap get shots with Utah outscoring Denver in the third quarter 27-26 to keep the tension high.
The game was played so close for the final minutes of the third quarter and the a huge portion of the fourth, that when Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin picked up an ill-advised foul and technical foul on Williams with 6:00 minutes left in the game, it changed everything. Martin shoved Williams on a play that could have been avoided as they Jazz pushed their lead to five points and did not give it up.
The game was also was flooded with fouls, as both teams struggled from the charity stripe, with Denver picking up 39 of the 70 fouls in the game also.
For a team that battled the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals last season, the Nuggets looked like a shadow of themselves. Blame it on poor basketball execution, lack of veteran coaching on the bench, and poor defensive plays.
Or give the Jazz their credit as they missed two starters and coach Jerry Sloan inspired his team after Game 1 when he said “This is where you get a chance to play, younger guys get put out on the floor, they get a chance to compete.” Matthews, CJ Miles, Millsap and Ronnie Price were those younger guys Sloan was referring to and did they respond.