Jazz, Nuggets both hampered by injuries
SALT LAKE CITY -- Injuries are becoming an early season broken record for the Utah Jazz. With Rodney Hood and George Hill sitting out on Thursday night because of injuries, Jazz coach Quin Snyder trotted out his 11th different starting lineup in 20 games.
Something more disconcerting than an endless slew of injuries surfaced for Utah in a 111-110 loss to Miami on Thursday. The Jazz interior defense suffered a rare breakdown over 48 minutes.
Utah (11-9) allowed 64 points in the paint, the most it has given up to any opponent this season. It ultimately negated a franchise-record 17 made 3-pointers for the Jazz and a season-high 32 points from forward Gordon Hayward.
Snyder suggested his team was too soft and lackadaisical when it counted after allowing the Heat to do whatever they wanted around the basket.
"You can point to certain things but, by the time we woke up defensively, it was late and we had to expend a lot of energy," Snyder said. "You put yourself in a tough position. We lacked physicality critically in the first half."
With Hood and Hill both unlikely to play again when the Denver Nuggets return to Salt Lake City on Saturday, the Jazz need to solve this new defensive puzzle. Utah is definitely capable of reasserting itself on defense. The Jazz have held eight opponents under 90 points this season -- the most of any NBA team.
The Nuggets are rowing a similar defensive boat at the moment. Denver could do nothing to contain Houston's offense in a 128-110 loss to the Rockets on Friday night. Seven different Houston players scored in double figures, led by James Harden with 20 points. The Rockets shot 49 percent from the field and had 26 assists on 45 baskets.
It's been a recurring theme for the Nuggets. Denver (7-12) has held just four opponents under 100 points this season and has allowed 115.8 points per game over its last six games. It has lost four times in its last five contests.
"I don't even know what to say," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "It's one thing to lose games, but when you're outworked on your home floor -- Miami did it, Houston did it -- I have no explanation."
Utah is one of those teams who mined the Nuggets for tons of points over 48 minutes. The Jazz beat the Nuggets 108-83 just 10 days ago in Hill's first game back after missing eight games with a sprained thumb. Hill and Hayward each finished with 22 points while Rudy Gobert added 19 points and 13 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season.
Just like Utah, Denver is dealing with its own injury issues heading into Salt Lake City. Forward Nikola Jokic did not play against Houston on Friday. Jokic sat out with a sore wrist. He is currently day-to-day and there is no timetable for his return. Will Barton returned to the lineup against the Rockets on Friday after missing 12 of the last 15 games with an ankle injury.