The Jazz bounced back from their 4-game losing streak with a 98-78 win over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night. Quin Snyder went with Raul Neto, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert to start the game. The appearances of Hood and Neto in the starting lineup for the final preseason game spark interest for those curious about Coach Snyder’s plans for those positions going forward this season.
In the win, Raul Neto looked active on defense. He forced a steal off an inbounds pass that he converted for a layup early in the game. His aggressive defensive style has been crowd-pleasing all preseason. Trey Burke also looked good at point guard, raising questions about who might be filling that starting role going forward. While Neto has the edge defensively, Trey Burke looked good on the offensive end for the Jazz in the last two preseason games. In the win over Denver, Burke hit buzzer beaters at the end of each of the first three quarters. Burke finished with 17 pts and 2 ast off the bench. He looks much more confident in the early going this season.
Utah picked up its defense against Denver following some letdowns in the last 4 games. The Jazz held Denver to just 36.3% from the floor, and forced 15 turnovers on 12 steals. Denver struggled to gain any momentum on offense. This is a good sign for the Jazz, who built their identity on defense over their impressive post all-star stretch last season. Some fans have been disappointed with Gobert’s efforts during the preseason, but a strong performance from the big man on the eve of the regular season should ease fears. Rudy finished with 14 pts, 11 rbs, and 2 blks in 30 minutes.
Alec Burks continued to look impressive in his action. He provided a nice spark off the bench on both ends of the floor. Burks finished with 8 pts, 5 ast, and 4 rbs. With Burks back the Jazz have added some much needed depth to their backcourt.
Danilo Gallinari looked impressive for the Nuggets, dropping 19 pts and pulling down 7 boards. He was about the only bright-spot for Denver. Even the Manimal himself, Kenneth Faried struggled to produce in his 16 minutes on the floor. He totaled 1 point and 3 rebounds in the loss.
With the regular season right around the corner, this win should be a good building block for the Jazz. They shot well from the field, finishing at 53%. However, free throws continued to be an issue for Utah, as they only shot 65% from the line. Their defense looked strong, and young players have shown improvement. In addition to the established leaders, Raul Neto, Rodney Hood, and a revitalized Alec Burks could be some fun players to watch for the Jazz this year. In the final tune up for the regular season the Jazz took a step in the right direction.