Ok so I was wrong……kinda.
I thought Utah would take advantage of Fill-in Coach Adrian Dantley and win Game 1 of the series against an unmotivated Denver team. Well, they didn’t, despite keeping it close for the first 3 Quarters, staying within 2 points throughout. Then the Fourth Quarter started and Denver took control, led by JR Smith and Carmelo the Nuggets outscored the Jazz 38-27 highlighted by transition 3′s by JR Smith and drives to the basket by Scoring Guru Carmelo Anthony.
Yeah, missing Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet (who left the game with a torn Achilles and will miss the rest of the playoffs) was huge in game 1. For Game 2 however, the Jazz came to play.
In a game that featured 15 ties and 17 lead changes it was the unsung heros of the Jazz bench who stepped up. Kyle Korver, who set a record for 3 point percentage during the regular season ( 56%) played 24 minutes and scored 13 points, going 5 of 7 from the field. Backup Center K. Fesenko, who played sparingly during the Regular Season, played 20 big minutes clogging the middle and altering shots all game long. He didn’t score a block but he played hard and made things incredibly difficult for Denver in the paint.
Five Jazz players scored in double figures.
Carmelo Anthony had another good scoring game, dropping 32 points, 6 boards and 4 dimes, but it didn’t come easy this time. After scoring a playoff career high 42 points on 18-25 shooting Carmelo went a horrific 9-25 from the field. Alot of the credit has to go to Jazz rookie Wesley Matthews and CJ Miles who made it their focus to play more physical with ‘Melo and try to limit his easy shots.
In Game 2 every shot was difficult and Wesley Matthews made sure to get a hand in his face every time he shot the ball.
‘Melo is going to average 35+ points a game in this series, its important that the Jazz make it a tough 35 points though, because if he continues to shoot under 40% Denver will not win this series.
Another difference in Game 2 was JR Smith’s performance. Smith was the player who keyed Denvers run in Game 1 during the 4th that gave the Nuggets the win. In the first game JR scored 20 points on 4-10 shooting from 3 point land, hitting 3 of them in the Fourth Quarter, however Smith only scored 9 points last night and went 1-6 from 3 point range. Smith is definitely the wild card for the Nuggets this series. Like I said before Melo is going to get his, but, if JR plays well Denver is really tough to beat.
Denver almost made a comeback however, down by 14 Denver stepped up their Defense and kept Utah without a field goal for 5 minutes, going on a 14-0 run to tie it. That’s when D Will took over. He ended the scoring drought with 2 free throws and assisted on two of Kyle Korvers 3 buckets to take a 88-82 lead.
Thank goodness for Deron Williams.
After Game 2 this is what a friend of mine had to say after strongly disagreeing with my post about a month ago that Deron Williams was a top 5 overall player in the NBA.
“Ok, I agree with you now. D Williams is top 5.”
People outside of Utah who don’t see D-Will on a daily basis have no idea how good this kid is and I got alot of response from my Post that I was crazy to think D-Will was a top 5 player, except from my Utah fans of course.
After this series I think alot more people will start to agree with me. D Will scored 33 points on 7-14 shooting with 14 assists and a steal and blocked shot. Its amazing to watch Williams play, there is no quit in him and he always goes balls to the wall!!! When you have a player like that on your team its very hard to lose.
D-Will isn’t the only Jazz man to step up his game during the first two games of the series.
Carlos Boozer is had a big game as well, scoring 20 points and grabbing 15 rebounds on 10-16 shooting, For the series Boozer is averaging 19.5 points and 11.5 rebounds. The shorthanded Jazz need some more of that when they come back to SLC for Game 3 on Friday at 10:30 EST and I think they are going to get it.
Despite Boozer’s oblique injury that kept hin out of the Season Finale against Phoenix I predicted that Boozer would have a monster series and so far so good. He knows he’s playing for alot of money, and so far he’s delivered. I know Utah fans hate Booz but they are going to miss him if he doesn’t get re-signed after the season.
When the series started there weren’t alot of people giving Utah a chance, even I doubted alittle bit that they could pull it off even though I picked them to win in 7. The Playoffs are tough and even tougher when you are missing your best defender (Kirilenko) and one of your best shooters (Okur), but Utah knows they can’t use their injuries as excuses, and so far they haven’t. They still need players like Korver and Fesenko to play well and step up to their new expanded roles.
Denver has some problems of their own as well. When I previewed the series I talked about how big missing George Karl for the series hurts Denver and it was pretty clear at the end of the regular season when Adrian Dantley took over that the Nuggets don’t respond to him as well as they do Karl. Well that’s rolled over into this playoff series, and Denver lost homecourt because of it.
If fill in Coach Adrian Dantley doesn’t figure out a way to reach his players and get them to buy what he’s selling this will be a short Post-Season for the Nuggets.
Danny Shapiro is the NBA Director of Content for Prosportsblogging.com. He lives in Salt Lake City Utah and has followed the Jazz for over 10 years. He’s a diehard Lakers fan and isn’t afraid to tell everyone how much better Kobe is than Lebron. You can also follow Danny on Twitter at DanShap@twitter.com or Facebook under Danny Shapiro. Also, Danny is a competitive Fantasy Sports Manager and loves to answer Fantasy Sports questions. If you would like to reach Danny with your questions you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Written by Danny Shapiro
Danny Shapiro is 26 years old, married and a father to 2 boys, who he hopes one day to play MLB and support him and his wife in their old age. Danny's second love, mistress even, is sports and Danny is living his dream of being a sports writer right now, thanks to Prosportsblogging.com.