Home » Jazz, Nuggets Meet in Rematch of Improbable Season Opener

Jazz, Nuggets Meet in Rematch of Improbable Season Opener

The Utah Jazz achieved a seemingly overwhelming victory over the favored Denver Nuggets as the two teams went head-to-head in their season opener on Oct. 19.

Despite the circumstances under which the teams compete in the campaign — with a massive rebuild from Utah and the Nuggets competing as championship contenders — no one would be surprised if the Jazz picked up another win in their rematch Friday night in Denver . Or at least played a competitive game.

Since that stunning 123-102 win that saw Collin Sexton lead seven Jazz players with 20 points in double digits, Utah has won three of its next four.

Meanwhile, Northwest Division favorite Denver had a so-so start to the season. Sure, the Nuggets pulled off a nice 128-123 win at the Golden State a week ago, but they were also blown out a second time by the Portland Blazers 135-110 on Monday.

Regardless, Friday’s showdown offers more intrigue than most expected ahead of the season.

Denver coach Mike Malone credited the Jazz with outplaying the Nuggets in the first half of the first game, particularly in the second quarter when the big lead was established.

“And I think, for a man, everyone in (our) locker room would agree,” Malone said. “We looked like a different team, felt like a different team (in the second half). But in this league you can’t choose when you play.

MVP Nikola Jokic scored 27 points on 12-of-17 shooting in the first meeting, but he felt the Nuggets had missed too many open opportunities and played a bit confused.

The Nuggets looked less confused in a 110-99 win over the winless Los Angeles Lakers in Denver Wednesday night. Jokic amassed 31 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and four steals, and the Nuggets broke up the game by outplaying LeBron James and the Lakers 32-17 in the third quarter.

On the other side of the Rockies, the Jazz got revenge for their only loss of the season by beating Houston 109-101 two nights after losing to the Rockets on the road.

Lauri Markkanen continued to be a force for Utah after being traded to the Cleveland Jazz during the offseason. Markkanen or “The Finnisher”, as the Jazz playfully call their outstanding player from Finland, scored 24 points with nine rebounds. Former NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson added 20 points with five 3-pointers in his new role as starter.

Markkanen was Utah’s top scorer this season, despite struggling from within 3-point range, where he shoots just 24.2 percent. He hit 10 of 15 shots on Wednesday night.

“I know the numbers are going to even out, so I’m continuing to work on that and it’ll eventually kick off,” Markkanen said. “But it feels good that I can do other things than just rely on that shot.”

Utah built a 19-point lead midway through the third quarter and then fended off the visitors after Houston caught up to two points at 5:39 in the game.

The Jazz played the second half without Sexton, who sustained a left oblique bruise. The Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr., who had 15 points and seven boards in the first game against Utah, missed time with a spinal injury.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *