The Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets will meet in the first round of the playoffs, pitting two young and talented teams against each other in what should be a high-octane battle.
Expect a lot of points scored in this series as two of the league's top offences take the floor in what will be an unpredictable playoff atmosphere.
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- Game 1 - Monday, August 17 @ 11:00 p.m.
- Game 2 - Thursday, August 20 @ 1:30 a.m.
- Game 3 - Saturday, August 22 @ 1:30 a.m.
- Game 4 - Monday, August 24 @ 6:30 a.m.
- Game 5 (if necessary) - TBD
- Game 6 (if necessary) - TBD
- Game 7 (if necessary) - TBD
Result: Nuggets won 3-0
Best game: Aug 8th, 2020 - Nuggets 134, Jazz 132 2OT
Best performance: Jordan Clarkson (Jan. 30, 2020) - 37 points 13-22 FG, 7-12 3PT, 4-5 FT).
The Nuggets swept the season series but each game was close, with Denver taking the three games by a combined 11 points.
The first meeting between the two teams saw an explosion from Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson who had been acquired from Cleveland a month and a half earlier was working his way into the Jazz rotation. His 37-point outburst proved that he might be the missing bench piece the Jazz needed.
24 of Clarkson's 37 came in the fourth period but it wasn't enough to get the win as the Nuggets held off the Jazz in the end.
In the second game between the two teams this season, Nikola Jokic went to the "Sombor Shuffle" for the game-winner on the road. Jamal Murray was big in the third quarter, but it was Jokic who sealed the deal with his play down the stretch.
Game three came in the bubble and it was a double-overtime thriller. Donovan Mitchell and Jokic were terrific in the second half and first overtime. Jerami Grant and Jamal Murray helped seal the win in the second overtime, making clutch plays down the stretch as Denver completed the season sweep.
Key Storyline: Can Rudy Gobert slow down Nikola Jokic?
It's a battle of two of the best big men the league has to offer in Gobert and Jokic.
Gobert is once again a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year award, and he will be tested by the player he's guarded the most this season.
In their three matchups, Gobert has guarded Jokic for 105.0 partial possessions allowing him to shoot 48.9 percent from the field, according to NBA Stats. The Jazz may take that percentage and consider it a victory if Gobert can replicate that in the postseason.
If Gobert can find a way to make life difficult for Jokic offensively and be active enough on the other end so that the Nuggets star can't rest defensively, the Jazz may be able to send the Nuggets back to Denver earlier than they expected.
Three Players to Watch
There's no question that Gobert's value to this series is on the defensive end of the floor. His ability to quarterback the Jazz defence is invaluable. But his offence will be equally as important.
When Gobert has been on the floor this season, the Jazz are scoring 6.9 points more per 100 possessions this season. His impact offensively has been second only to Bojan Bogdanovic's who's out for the year with a wrist injury.
Without Bogdanovic in the lineup, the Jazz will be even more reliant on Gobert's screens to create offence. The Frenchmen led the NBA in screen assists points per game at 16.0 this season.
Not only is the pick and roll a vital part of the Jazz offence but it will also force Jokic to guard more ball screens than he wants to.
The Nuggets will only go as far as Nikola Jokic can carry them, but the difference in the Nuggets being able to contend for a title this year or in the future depends on Jamal Murray.
Murray has all the talent in the world - we've seen him perform on the biggest of stages - but we've also seen him have subpar games in big moments.
If Denver makes any noise this postseason it will be because Jamal Murray produces ... consistently.
When you go back and look at his numbers from last playoffs, the Nuggets' won when Murray played and shot well from the field, and when he didn't they lost. It's almost that simple.
Will he have bad games? Sure, it's a part of the development process. Let's not forget he's a 23-year-old. But the quicker he can become a more consistent talent the quicker the Nuggets can start chasing rings.
Donovan Mitchell is getting set to enter his third playoff run in three years. Last year's run was one he'd like to forget as he struggled to find his touch from the field, shooting 32.1 percent overall and 25.6 percent from 3-point range.
If we know anything about Mitchell this early in his career it's that he's a rhythm player. He can reel off a stretch of games where he looks like he's about to break through as he did in the first quarter of this season, or he can get into a massive slump as he did in March which has carried over to the bubble.
With games being played every other day in the playoffs, the first two games of this series will be crucial for Mitchell. If he can find his rhythm the Jazz may be able to ride his hot hand to the next round. If he can't, they'll likely be heading back to Utah before long.
Picks and Predictions
Carlan Gay: Nuggets in six
Scott Rafferty: Nuggets in five
Gilbert McGregor: Nuggets in six
Alex Novick: Nuggets in six
Benyam Kidane: Nuggets in six
Yash Matange: Nuggets in six
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