Finally, someone beat the Utah Jazz, and it took an effort from one of the NBA’s best big men. Nikola Jokic reached the high point of his career with 47 points, and the Denver Nuggets stepped up the pressure in a tight first half to end Utah’s 11-game winning streak with a 128-113 victory in Denver on Sunday.
The Joker and the Nuggets stormed through the door, scoring 22 points in the first quarter and 33 before the break. Jokic’s 33 points in the first half were the most important in the entire half and the most important in the first half of an NBA game this season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he was also the most productive first-half Nugget player since Allen Iverson scored 33 points on December 5, 2007.
All season, only two players have scored at least 33 points against the Jazz: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jokic himself on January 17, both of whom scored 35 points.
In addition to his 47 points (on a shot percentage of 17 out of 26), Jokic grabbed 12 rebounds to notch his 20th consecutive double-double early in the season – the second-longest streak since the NBA/ABA merger, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Antetokounmpo did it in 19 consecutive games to start last season. Jokic, however, has a chance at the highest score since Bill Walton scored a double-double in 34 consecutive games at the start of the 1976-77 season.
“I’m just happy we won the game,” Jokic said in a post-game interview on the Nuggets’ Altitude TV channel. “They play great soccer, they have 11 wins in a row, they shoot the ball very well. It’s a very good win for us.
When asked if he wanted to shoot more, Jokic replied, “It depends. It depends on the game and how I feel. It’s not about thinking about the game, but what I’m going to do. I’m just trying to see what the game brings me.
Denver had 15 of 17 three-pointers in the first half and led 79-54 at the break. Will Barton made all five attempts, Jokic was perfect on four attempts and Paul Millsap made a double. According to a study by the Elias Sports Bureau, the Nuggets’ 3-point percentage (88.2%) is the best of any team that has made at least 15 attempts in the last 20 seasons. Denver finished the game making 18 of 28 shots.
The 3-point shooter, by the way, was one of the keys to Utah’s success during this successful period. Sunday, the Jazz set an NBA record with their 10th consecutive game with at least 15 long shots.
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The Jazz, who set their best NBA record with a score of 15-4, extended their major league winning streak to 11 despite the absence of Donovan Mitchell in the final two games due to a concussion. Mitchell returned on Sunday, but it didn’t matter.
The Jazz outscored their opponents by an average of 117-101 in their 11 consecutive victories, having to surrender just 57 seconds into the fourth quarter. But on Sunday, Utah took its only lead at 9:23 of the first quarter. Millsap hit a Denver 3 18 seconds later and Jazz went the rest of the way. Utah got to within one point in the third quarter, but Denver distanced itself in the fourth.
“I didn’t think we had a defensive advantage,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said in the post-game video conference. “Hats off to Denver, obviously, for making those plays. We held on and cut the lead to single digits, but you give yourself a very, very difficult mountain to climb and a small margin for error. You have to be almost perfect at this stage”.