Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 117-107 loss to the Denver Nuggets from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Jazz let a 15-point lead slip away with careless play
Presented with an obvious opportunity to win the series, the Jazz let it slip. A 15-point lead midway through the 3rd quarter should be sufficient, but instead, the Jazz made numerous mistakes on both ends of the floor to lose Game 5.
It felt like a miniature version of the last time the Jazz were in this spot. Two years ago against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Jazz had a 25-point lead in Game 5 before a Russell Westbrook run and some costly mistakes allowed the Thunder to run away with the game and easily force a Game 6. This wasn’t quite that bad, but it was close.
Just like in that series, there was a star performance from an opposing guard. We do have to give credit to Jamal Murray first, because he was sensational. He had 33 points in the second half on just 14-18 shooting. He also had five assists and zero turnovers. He was great.
But the Jazz can defend him better. Here, he gets downhill with Joe Ingles defending in space. But with that much of a cushion, Ingles needs to be able to stay in front of him. Likewise, you’d like to see Gobert come over and help. Instead, nobody does anything.
This was also a bad turnover at a crucial time. Donovan Mitchell gets defensive pressure coming up the floor, but he throws it at Joe Ingles, who isn’t looking. By the time he turns around, it’s like Ingles has never seen a basketball before.
Again, it’s just a lack of focus, but that’s incredibly costly.
You can do this for a ton of plays. Here, Georges Niang has to know that Jerami Grant is a shooting threat, but instead, the closeout is pretty lackadaisical.
Quin Snyder was clearly disappointed in his team after the game. Quotes like these tell the story:
“I thought on some level we just lost our composure when we were ahead,” Snyder said. “I thought as much as anything we got a little distracted during the game and weren’t as focused defensively, collectively.”
He’s right: the Jazz thought they had already won the series, and acted like it. Now they’ll need to win it for real in either Game 6 or Game 7.
2. Inconsistency from Royce O’Neale
The worst mistakes of the game, though, came from Royce O’Neale. I thought the Jazz could have survived the game except for O’Neale’s poor second half, when he had 2 points, 3 rebounds, 5 fouls, and 4 turnovers. The Jazz were outscored by 23 in the minutes he was on the floor.
It is a pretty basic tenet of basketball to guard the player you are assigned to, but here, it’s like O’Neale just forgot to move.
O’Neale, this is a very important play! You are up by one point in the fourth quarter of a playoff series! You can’t leave Murray now! Doing so is like leaving your stove on then leaving for a…
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