DENVER — At least they scored more.
The Jazz were outscored 117-100 by the Denver Nuggets in their second regular-season game Wednesday night, marking their second ugly overall performance in two consecutive nights.
While Utah scored far more than it did against the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday night, the Jazz still committed 22 turnovers, while their porous defense made it easy for Denver to shoot a blistering 54 percent from the field with many coming from easy layups and in-the-paint buckets.
GUARDS: Starting point Devin Harris scored 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, but had as many assists (2) as turnovers. Raja Bell was ineffective with two points and four fouls in 19 minutes.
On Denver's side, backup point guard Andre Miller notched 12 assists in 28 minutes, while starters Aaron Afflalo and Ty Lawson were effective.
Harris' backups, Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley, went scoreless, with seven collective assists, in 27 combined minutes. C.J. Miles did bounce back from a wholly unimpressive night in Los Angeles to score 13 points, including 3-of-4 shooting from 3-point land, while rookie Alec Burks surprised with 15 points in nearly 10 minutes. Grade: B-
FORWARDS: Starting power forward Derrick Favors grabbed 10 rebounds, but scored just two points on 1-of-4 shooting in less than 17 minutes of play. It was a performance that doesn't necessarily scream to Utah head coach Tyrone Corbin that he deserves to start over Paul Millsap, who scored 13 points on an effective 6-of-9 shooting with eight rebounds in nearly 22 minutes.
Gordon Hayward had a nice line with 10 points and seven assists, but backup Josh Howard didn't quite maintain his play against the Nuggets in shooting just 2-of-9 from the field. Jeremy Evans was essentially a non-factor in 13 minutes. It hardly seemed like anyone could put a body on Nene, who scored 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting. Grade: C
CENTERS: Much like last season, Al Jefferson has demonstrated up-and-down play through four games including the preseason by bouncing back from a 2-of-16 night against Pau Gasol and the Lakers with an 8-of-14 effort for 19 points against the Nuggets. He also grabbed five rebounds. He was certainly the best center on the floor Wednesday night. At least Kosta Koufos' four points in eight minutes showed Jazz management that perhaps they made a correct decision in letting him go in favor of other big men. Enes Kanter grabbed five rebounds in 14 minutes of play, though he went 1-of-5 from the field. Kanter is demonstrating that he has a knack when it comes to glass-cleaning Grade: B
BENCH: Though Millsap and Howard headlined the bench against the Lakers, Millsap once again made a strong case for the Jazz's sixth man of the game, contested by Miles and Burks. It is far too early to see which bench players outside of Millsap will play consistently. Letting Miller, a former Ute, go off for 12 assists while allowing Al Harrington score 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the bench cannot be overlooked. Grade: B-
COACHING: Corbin still has many decisions to make with the rotation. If he's going to play Millsap extended time over Favors (five more minutes Wednesday, eight more Tuesday), then he may as well start the power forward considered a major all-star snub by NBA gurus last season. Why make Millsap upset when it isn't necessary? Corbin shouldn't let his loyalty to Bell allow for him to continue giving the 35-year-old significant minutes if Bell isn't performing.
Playing Miles more at the 2-guard position and sliding Millsap to the 3 to continually give appropriate minutes to Jefferson and Favors still may not be a bad idea. Corbin must be wondering as much as anyone why his primary floor general, Harris, isn't really distributing the ball for scores as much as one might expect. It's more difficult to place that one and much more on Corbin since basically everyone but Millsap, who plays extended minutes, has given inconsistent performances the past two days. Grade: C
OVERALL: At least Utah put the ball in the basket at a much higher pace against the Nuggets than they did Tuesday in Los Angeles. However, overall defense both on the interior (see Nene) and from the outside (see Afflalo, Lawson and Miller) was tremendously poor. The 22-turnover count continues to prove that this team needs more time to gel with its on-court chemistry. That's a difficult thing to establish when the group has been subject to a shortened training camp and now averaging a game less than every other day. Grade: C+
Rhett Wilkinson is a journalism and speech communications major at Utah State University. He has previously been an intern for the Deseret News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Twitter: wilklogan
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