With a huge layoff, it’s great that the most exciting series in the NBA Playoffs will resume tonight. Watching the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets battle is pure entertainment for any NBA fan. These two teams clearly do not like each other, and the tension that lies between them is hard to go unnoticed. I can only imagine the thoughts that have been filling the heads of these two teams, as the pivotal Game 3 approaches.
With that being said, here are some important things that the Jazz need to do to win Game 3 tonight and take control of the series.
- Because the Nuggets said that they are willing to let other players outside of Deron Williams beat them, it is going to be imperative that D-Will racks up the assists tonight. That requires all the players to be on their games offensively. D-Will needs to find the open man, and the open man needs to make the open shots. Simple as that. Williams was third in the league in assists per game this season, so you know that D-Will is more-than-comfortable sharing the ball with his teammates. The key is going to be his teammates, who are going to need to carry out the job to its completion. Williams can make things easy for everybody else, but he can’t do the tasks for them. (“You can lead a camel to the water, but you can’t make him drink.”) And remember, all of this is assuming that the Nuggets’ attempts to stop Williams with traps and double-teams is successful. That won’t necessarily be the case.
- The Jazz have been a great comeback team this season, but right now is not the best time to try and add another one to the history books. As you know, the Jazz are very thin right now with injuries to AK and Memo. Because of that, you don’t want to allow the Nuggets to get a huge lead and force the Jazz to expound all of their energy on a comeback. They will run out of fuel that way, and they will lose the game. This is why the Jazz need to make sure to keep the Nuggets within 10 points at all times. Of course, that doesn’t apply if the Jazz are the team with the lead. If that’s the case, a 25-point lead would be welcome with open arms. But in all seriousness, if the Jazz want to win games in this series, they are probably going to have to do it in grind-it-out fashion.
- Like I mentioned in my last post, a home game in the NBA Playoffs is the time for role players to shine. Last game, the Nuggets bench did nothing, as the Jazz bench outscored them 33-20. Now that the Jazz are the home team, the pressure falls on their bench to perform. Guys like Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, and Ronnie Price will all need to put their best efforts on the court, so that the Jazz can get the relief that this team so desperately needs right now. Even playing good defense and making good hustle plays are aspects that the bench players could bring to the game that can truly change the outcome. Sure, points are always great, but that is not the only indication of a good bench performance. As long as the bench can sustain or boost the play of the starters, it will be considered a positive night for the Jazz bench.
- In Game 2, the Jazz defense was able to frustrate the Nuggets by drawing many offensive fouls. If the Jazz can once again frustrate the Nugs, the Jazz will have a wonderful chance of coming away with a victory. If you think that frustrating the Nuggets in Denver rattled Carmelo and the crew, you just wait and see what a frustrated Nuggets team looks like in Utah. When you add the noise of a buzzing crowd to the emotional frustration of the players, it is a recipe for disaster for the road team. Please, Utah, make it happen. I can see it now: ‘Melo gets called for an offensive foul, the crowd goes wild, and ‘Melo starts barking at the refs. This, of course, leads to an ejection, which invokes even more wildness from the crowd. Is it just me, or would that be awesome to watch? (Obviously that question doesn’t apply to Nuggets fans)
- The final aspect that the Jazz need to concern themselves with is free throws. In Game 2, it was their clutch free-throw shooting that actually WON them that game. Had they missed any of their 6 free-throws down the stretch, we could be talking about a 2-0 Nuggets lead in the series, and all of the hopes of winning the series would be long gone. In fact, everybody would be talking about avoiding a sweep as the best case scenario. However, the Jazz DID make their free-throws and that is not what people are talking about. Since that is so, the Jazz need to make sure to knock down the freebies once again. They proved to be the difference in Game 2, and there is no reason to believe that they won’t be the difference once again in Game 3. Like I mentioned earlier, the Jazz are going to be in grind-it-out games, which means that the difference can always come down to free-throws. And not only is free-throw shooting important down the stretch, but it will be important throughout the game. If the Jazz are able to shoot a good percentage from the line, I highly doubt that they will lose this game. Capitalizing on easy scoring opportunities is something that separates the good teams from the great teams. In any given game, the “lost points” can come back to bite you in the behind. It is hard enough to score on a regular possession, so it is vital that they can rack up the easy points in bunches. The only problem is that the Jazz have been dealing with free-throw issues all season long, so there is no guarantee that they will be able to knock ‘em down. Hopefully Game 3 is not one of those times when they shoot 50% from the charity stripe.
If all of the points mentioned above favor the Jazz, I can guarantee a victory for the Jazz. However, if they favor the Jazz, and they still lose the game, then the Jazz are in a world of trouble in this series.