By John Carroll, Scouts Inc.
The Utah Jazz stole Game 2 at the Pepsi Center in Denver and they returned to Utah and held down home court grabbing two more victories. They return to Denver for Game 5 with a chance to close out this series. If they can win Game 5 or this series it will be in large part to Jerry Sloan’s abilities to coach and develop his bench. When you look at the Utah roster and see the contributions that are being made in this series by young players such as Wesley Matthews who normally starts or bench players that have been thrust into the starting lineup like C.J. Miles and Kyrylo Fesenko it is a testimony of how good a coach Sloan really is. Some coaches only want veterans and players they can trust. Sloan takes young players, he works them hard, teaches them how to play his Utah brand of basketball and then lets them play. Because of Sloan’s direction Wesley Matthew scored 18 points and Miles 21. Because of his tutelage Fesenko scored six points, grabbed five rebounds and played very good interior defense. Sloan trusts Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap off the bench and they have provided the Jazz with offense and resiliency when called upon.
The Utah Jazz execute their offense to perfection. They have tremendous ball movement, share the ball which is reflected in their high assist total. They led the NBA in assists per game and Sunday was another example of their unselfishness when they totaled 24 assists in Game 4. Carlos Boozer was terrific for the Jazz scoring 31 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Deron Williams contributed with 24 points of his own and led them in assists with 13.
Game 5 Adjustments
Denver looks like a frustrated team with no anchor or rudder. They need direction and leadership. They look like they are going through the motions but not with a purpose. They are not defending, they are turning the ball over (Carmelo had nine last night), their transition defense is poor. They have no balance to their offense, it is has been either Anthony or very little else. And lastly they are having foul problems. Every one of their starters had four, five (Anthony) or six (Billups) fouls in Sunday night’s game. This fouling is a lack of defensive toughness and discipline. This is the third game in this series where Carmelo has had five fouls. He already has seven offensive fouls in this series. He must clean that up in Game 5 and stay out of foul trouble.
The Nuggets can’t beat the Jazz if they do not improve their transition defense. Utah is such a good offensive team which executes in the half court that if they can’t limit their easy baskets then they have no chance. They must sprint back, load up to Williams when he has ball and limit easy baskets.
Carmelo needs help scoring the basketball if the Nuggets are to win. Melo scored 39 points and 12 came in the fourth quarter. He needs more help from Billups, Martin, Nene, and J.R. Smith. The Nuggets need a much more balanced attack in order to beat the Jazz
To win Game 5 the Nuggets will need to shoot the ball much better than they did in Game 4. Other than Carmelo who was 4-for-4 from the 3-point line the rest of team went 2-for-12 from behind the arc. They need better accuracy than what Billups (1-for-4), Afflalo (0-for-3) Smith (1-for-4), Lawson (0-for-1) gave them.
The Utah Jazz are on track to pull off an upset in the first round. Whether they can do it in Denver or back in Utah in Game 6 they have the game plan needed to win this series. Williams is my choice of No. 1 point guard because of his size, strength, vision and talent. They will run and get easy baskets, they will slow it down and execute their offense. The addition of Fesenko to the starting lineup has really helped Carlos Boozer. Boozer is able to play inside out and show how versatile he really is. The Jazz will need Boozer to continue to provide them with interior offense, defense and rebounding. The Jazz need to continue that nice mixture of fast-break basketball, half-court execution and solid team defense to win this series. That’s what Sloan coached teams do. Expect nothing less.
Nuggets win Game 5.