After a valiant effort in which the Nuggets only played seven players for the majority of the night, the Utah Jazz finally pulled away in the waning seconds of the game to win the season finale on it’s home floor.
Tonight, in all practicality was pretty much meaningless. The Nuggets landed on the 50-win mark Monday, and already had the fifth seed wrapped up as well, so dressing only eight guys was no surprise. Yet again for the umpteenth time, a player hit the deck and didn’t spring up immediately for the Nuggets Wednesday night, and that player was a guy we simply can’t afford to lose for the playoffs: Ty Lawson. According to Benjamin Hochman “a couple people around [the] team sensed it wasn’t serious,” so thank the Heavens for that. Still, somebody needs to find the injury bug that’s been pestering the Nuggets these days and unload a can of Raid on his ass, because I about had a heart attack when Lawson went down clutching his ankle, and if we want any chance of beating the Thunder in the first round (oh yeah, in case your living under a rock and haven’t heard, we got the Thunder, so…) we need to be fully healthy and ready to rock ‘n’ roll.
So yeah, as you probably know by now either from LeESPN, the news, a friend, Twitter or hopefully the above paragraph if neither of the other ones, that we drew the Thunder in the first round. Kind of saw this one coming from a mile away to be honest, but hey, it was fun rooting for the Mavs to lose as always. There’s no doubt it’s gonna be one hell of a series, and I can’t wait(!) to get things crackin’, but the first game won’t kick off until Saturday, so we’ll have plenty of time between now and then to detail in-depth what the match-up will be like. For now, let’s hit on some game notes since this is a recap after all…
A pretty uneventful evening of basketball to be quite frank. The game was sloppy, semi-lethargic and uninspiring for about 42 minutes. There were a few exciting plays here and there, and it was close up till the end, but you never got that feeling like Denver cared enough to put in that extra dose of effort it takes to win tight games on the road like we’ve seen them do so often recently. Our guys made a strong push near the end but give Utah some credit, as they nobly fought back in front of all their fans to end the season on a nice, jazzy note that even Charlie Parker would be proud of.
Looking at the box-score a few things jump out. First, Gordon Hayward went off for a career-high 34 points on 12-17 from the field, including 5-6 from beyond the arc. It surely wasn’t our best defensive effort, but again, give the kid the credit he deserves. Hayward was seen as a botched pick by the Jazz last year at the nine spot given guys like Paul George, Xavier Henry and Ed Davis were still on the board. A lot of people felt it was the consensus “Caucasian selection” the Jazz have become famous for (the Pacers have actually taken over the reign of this title recently), but tonight he proved it was quite possibly the best selection on the board given Utah’s needs. I mean, 34 points for a rookie is definitely saying something, so I’ll be interested in seeing where Hayward goes from here.
As for the Nuggets, several guys had strong games tonight, most notably Wilson Chandler who finished with 27 points on 10-20 from the field to go along with six rebounds and three assists. Chandler definitely impressed me this game as there were times when he seemed to be the only guy on the court knocking down shots. His 17 (I believe it was) first-half points were some the quietest I’ve ever seen. Maybe Chandler just needed a few days of rest to get rejuvenated, because he looked like a new man tonight. Gary Forbes also had a strong outing as he netted 17 points on 7-11 from the field to go along with six rebounds and three assists. Forbes is someone I feel has a long career ahead of him in the NBA. His game epitomizes that solid utility-man that every team needs. There’s nothing Forbes can’t do on the basketball court, and if he could just focus on his defense a little more there’s no telling how far he might go. Koufos too exhibited another efficient, hard-working performance as he scored 14 points on 7-11 from the field to go along with six rebounds — four of which were offensive.
– Derrick Favors, the one-time New Jersey Net who looked to be coming our way as part of a potential Carmelo Anthony trade, looked pretty good out there tonight. He had 12 points on 5-10 from the field to go with seven rebounds (five offensive), three assists, three steals and two blocks in 32 minutes of action. He’s had an up-and-down rookie season, and has been seen as somewhat of a disappointment, but he’s started to show flashes of why he was taken so early on in the draft now that he’s receiving more playing time. Favors is still the youngest player in the NBA and someone who I will be watching closely in the future, as I have a few side bets with those who were opposed the Nets trade about what type of player he will ultimately end up being. Kid looked like he held his own for being such a pup in a Pit Bull’s game, though at times he did look lost. If Utah can build around him, Milsap, Jefferson, Hayward and whoever they get with their two lottery picks this season, their future should be bright.
– Kind of off topic here, but during the break between the first and second quarter I changed the channel over to the Rockies game and caught Tulo at bat. A few pitches went by then some moron in the background yelled, “Tuloooo!!! You suck!” One pitch later, Tulo was jogging around the bases after belting a three-run homer screaming something under his breath, that I assume was directed at the heckler in the crowd.
– Have we ever been fully healthy since the trade? Does anybody know? I was thinking about it tonight and couldn’t remember one game with the new crew that everyone had been all suited up in unison. Man would it be nice if the first playoff game, we had our whole roster ready to bangeraaaaang!!!
– Lastly, somebody tell Al that just because his feet are behind the arc when he receives the ball, that doesn’t mean he has to shoot it from there! That is all.