'Drained' Jazz face Nuggets again
SALT LAKE CITY — Few things are going right for the Utah Jazz on offense. Injuries to key players have taken their toll and are causing Utah to lose ground in the Western Conference.
Since starting point guard George Hill sprained his thumb in a 114-109 victory over New York on Nov. 6, the Jazz (7-8) have hit one sour offensive note after another in his absence. Utah is 3-5 without Hill on the court and has lost four straight games.
The latest setback occurred Sunday in Denver when the Jazz fell 105-91 to the Denver Nuggets. Utah shot just 38.8 percent and trailed almost the entire game. During their four-game losing streak, the Jazz have averaged just 91.1 points per contest. They are scoring just 96.0 overall — tied for 27th in the NBA. Orlando and Dallas are the only teams scoring fewer points.
“We look like a team that's emotionally and mentally drained, and usually that makes you feel physically drained,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after Sunday's loss to Denver. “The NBA is a make-or-miss league. There's going to be nights when everything goes in. The question is: When you're not making shots, are you able to do the other things you're able to do to win the game?”
Getting Hill back could offer a major boost to Utah's ability to generate baskets. Hill averaged 20.4 points, 4.9 assists and 1.1 turnovers in seven games before being sidelined. Utah's offense has produced 1.6 points more per game with him on the court (96.9) than it has during his absence.
Hill remains questionable for Wednesday's rematch with the Nuggets. He practiced on Tuesday but was limited to non-contact drills.
Denver's victory over the Jazz — just the team's second home victory — has provided a spark after a rough start. Denver (6-8) won consecutive games for the first time after edging Chicago 110-107 on Tuesday night, and the club is 3-1 in its last four contests.
What's the secret to the success? The Nuggets are good at sharing the ball, which is opening chances to get into an early offensive rhythm. Denver is averaging 27.3 assists on 42.3 field goals over the past four games.
“It's a combination of unselfish plays and guys making shots,” Denver coach Brendan Malone said before a win over Chicago on Tuesday.
Wilson Chandler has provided the biggest offensive spark over the last four games. He is carving out a niche as a reliable and dangerous sixth man. The veteran forward has averaged 21.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 32 minutes per game off the bench during that stretch.
The win over the Jazz on Sunday snapped a five-game losing streak to Utah extending back to the 2014-15 season. Denver hasn't beaten the Jazz in Salt Lake City since claiming a 103-101 victory on Dec. 1, 2014 — a game in which Utah erased a 22-point deficit and tied it up before point guard Ty Lawson hit a winning jumper with 29.6 seconds left.