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NBA Playoff Recap - West First Round, Game 3

(5) Utah 105, (4) Denver 93 - Jazz lead series, 2-1

 

A Utah Jazz power forward took over the second quarter of this Western Conference first round matchup in Salt Lake City.  It wasn’t Olympian Carlos Boozer.  Utah’s Paul Millsap, one of the league’s best sixth men, scored an astounding 18 points in the second quarter to buoy up Utah after a subpar opening stanza.  Millsap was an incredible 9-for- 9 in the first half, and it was that kind of difference-making effort which enabled the short-handed Jazz to jump the Nuggets for the second straight game. 

The Nuggets jumped out to a quick 10-point lead after Utah’s usual suspects, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams, struggled mightily in the opening period.  Denver’s duo of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups had seemingly taken control of the game early and had hushed the frenzied Utah crowd with solid play.  Utah used a 5-0 run to close the Denver lead to six at the end of the quarter following a Wesley Matthews three-pointer just before the buzzer.

Enter Paul Millsap. 

 

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The 6-8 standout from Louisiana Tech used a slew of inside post moves to keep the Jazz run going in the second quarter.  The glass was also Millsap’s playground as the undersized forward dominated the boards against the longer Denver frontcourt.  The Jazz outscored the Nuggets by 10 in the second quarter and took a four-point lead into the locker room at halftime (52-48).    The Jazz scored 52 points in the half, but only 9 of them came from Utah’s stars.

The third quarter was the difference maker in Salt Lake City.  The Jazz continued to get good shots through their offensive sets, and Williams and Boozer began to heat up.  Williams finished the game with a stellar 24 points and 10 assists.  Denver was not able to stop any of Utah’s sustained drives to the bucket and was dealt a heavy blow after Carmelo Anthony picked up his fifth foul late in the third quarter.  The Jazz had extended their lead to 16 at that point in the proceedings, and Denver looked as if it had packed it in for Game 4. 



 

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Following a stellar Game 1 performance, Denver has struggled to stop the Utah offensive attack.  Anthony has been frustrated during this series at the physicality of the Utah strategy.  The superstar forward has been unable to stay out of foul trouble and the effect has been tremendous - tremendously harmful, that is - to the Denver attack.  Following his career playoff-high 42 points in Game 1, Anthony has been held to back-to-back inefficient performances.  The Nuggets have also struggled to find a second scorer as both Billups and shooting guard J.R. Smith have seen their play turn from stellar to inconsistent.

Game 4 becomes a must-win for the Nuggets, who will be looking to avoid a 3-1 series deficit.  Surprisingly, it is Utah who has taken control of this opening-round series following the season-ending injury to its third-best scorer, Mehmet Okur, in Game 1.  Only time will tell whether Denver can shake off the dust and return to its early series form, or if the Jazz can pull off the first upset of the NBA postseason.

 

 

By: Zach Bloxham
Pro Basketball Fans Guest Writer


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