Nuggets survive historic Donovan Mitchell (57)

Strong emotions to open the bubble playoffs: the Nuggets were saved in overtime, thanks to Murray and Jokic, against a Jazz that touched the victory.


Playoffs in August. No fans, no hot pavilions, no trips to enemy territory. At Walt Disney World and with a virtual audience. Playoffs in August… but playoffs. The start, Nuggets-Jazz, was tremendous. The Rockies won (135-125), in extra time and with many problems. And they took the first point of a series, third against sixth from the West, in which they started as clear favorites. Now they are even more so.

Because it just seemed like they have more. That they will win in more types of matches (and you have to win four). For that reason, the Jazz will remember a duel that they tipped in the second half and should have won, with the Nuggets confused and disjointed. And with an imperial Donovan Mitchell, who scored 2 points with 1/5 shooting in the first quarter and finished with 57 and 19/33. In addition, he captured 9 rebounds and distributed 7 assists. The second quarter was the only reason the Nuggets didn't win by more at halftime (59-52, 18 shooting guard points in that quarter). In the third he seemed on the verge of winning the game and in the fourth he directed (22 points) all the attacks of the Jazz who had the victory in their hand and brushed defeat in a final shot by Jokic, well defended by Rudy Gobert. In extra time, already exhausted, they lost four balls and conceded 8 points (123-115) before scoring their first basket. Game over.

Mitchell broke the Jazz record in the playoffs, the 50 points that Karl Malone had scored in 2000, added the first game of more than 50 in a playoff start since 2003 (Allen Iverson) and became the second player to exceed the 56 points in the qualifying rounds for the title under 23 years old. The other one who has succeeded is Michael Jordan. That Mitchell game was not enough, and that is the worst news for Jazz with little time to rearm: in this format without trips, it is played every other day.

Last summer the Jazz made a team to make the definitive leap forward. His bets to go far (finally) in the playoffs were Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic. The second is injured and has not traveled to Florida, the first just left for the birth of his son. So with no two starters and two players that should be essential if the Jazz are to take real bites in the playoffs, Quin Snyder's team put it all in Mitchell's hands with the defense help of Gobert, who did what he could against Jokic, and in the creation of Joe Ingles. Rookie Juwan Morgan, an undrafted power forward who had played 134 minutes this season, started and finished with +17 on the court. The Jazz squeezed themselves, gained a lot of extra possessions (16-8 in attacking rebounds) and had an illuminated Mitchell. But they lost. Bad thing.

The Nuggets managed the game in the first half and gave the feeling of having everything under control until they fell, it happens to them sometimes, in the chaos and lack of discipline after the break (19-31 in the third quarter). They're also short on two starters (Gary Harris and Will Barton, they'll need them if they advance to the Clippers in the second round), but they have more resources and more talent than the Jazz. Nikola Jokic lost many battles with Gobert but ended up winning the war (29 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists) and Jamal Murray dynamited the game when it seemed that there was no answer for the great rival star. The Canadian guard (23 years old) signed a 5-year, 170 million extension last summer. In many sections of the matches he seems not to deserve it ... but it is better not to have him in front of him in hot moments. He scored 20 points between the fourth quarter and overtime. Baskets of pure talent that not only sustained his team but built an emotional resistance to Mitchell. What seemed to be missing: the antidote.

Between Jokic and Murray they were enough, with the help of Craig, Grant, Morris and a Michael Porter who started well in attack (13 points) but saw the decisive stretch on the bench due to his defensive deficiencies. In general, the Nuggets weren't consistent or disciplined… but they won. That's what it's all about, at least on the first day of the playoffs. And more if there is a player in front of him in absolute trance: Donovan Mitchell, 57 points and defeat. If Bogdanovic and Conley were there…

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