On paper, the Utah Jazz’s current injury report looks like one of the most imposing lineups they can field this season.
Jordan Clarkson, Rudy Gobert, Danuel House Jr., Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell, and Hassan Whiteside are currently listed as out for the Jazz’s game against the Denver Nuggets. On the season, that group is responsible for at least 65 percent of Utah’s total points, rebounds, and assists, entering the contest against the Nuggets.
Denver’s big men were also out for the game against the Jazz, as Nikola Jokic, Aaron Gordon, and DeMarcus Cousins sat due to a sore right toe, left hamstring tightness, and a right foot sprain, respectively.
Thus, in a close battle between undermanned teams, Utah pulled off a 108-104 win and overcame the Nuggets having all but one of their nine rotation players scoring at least eight points. Mike Conley had four of the Jazz’s eight steals in the game, which was a major factor in Denver committing 14 turnovers.
Utah actually had the tallest player on the floor in Udoka Azubuike, who had a game-high 10 rebounds and swatted away two shots in his second start this season. Six players finished in double-figures for the Jazz, led by Trent Forrest, who had career-highs of 18 points and eight assists in the fourth start of his career.
After today’s result, Utah swept their season series with the Nuggets and snapped a five-game losing streak. However, they are 5-12 in 2022, a decline that had them falling to fourth place in the Western Conference with a win-loss record of 31-21. The Dallas Mavericks, who lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier today, slid to 29-23 yet remain two games behind the Jazz.
With most of their major contributors on the shelf, it puts Utah in a precarious position at least for the near future. The game against Denver saw the Jazz having to go deep in their lineup, at times even resorting to putting Rudy Gay and Eric Paschall at center. This is actually not the first time it was done, as Gobert and Whiteside entered COVID-19 health and safety protocols back in January.
Clarkson, Gobert, and Whiteside should return in a few days, while House Jr. and Mitchell will be back once they clear health and safety and concussion protocols, respectively. However, Ingles is out for the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee. While his numbers this season are the lowest since 2016-2017, it’s the intangibles he provides Utah off the bench and the ability to step up when his other teammates are out that will be missed.
Wins have been few and far between, but Jazz head coach Quin Snyder has been making do with what he has had on a nightly basis. Utah’s offense remains as potent as ever, as they are second in the league in points per game at 113.4, but they have slightly dropped off on defense, allowing 107.7 points per game, which puts them in the middle of the pack. The absence of Gobert and to some extent Whiteside was felt as they were lacking rim protection to complement their perimeter defense. In fact, the Jazz came away with the win earlier today despite allowing the Nuggets to shoot 60.8 percent from inside the 3-point line and 53.2 percent from the field overall.
Considering the development program they have in place, Utah can find production from nearly all of the players on their roster. The games in which the reserves have had to take on larger roles will also help give them experience for future instances when their numbers will be called on again. Still, there must be improvements on the defensive end regardless of personnel and today’s win over Denver should provide the blueprint for that.
Utah Jazz players have been dropping like flies and a depleted roster is like blood in the water for teams in the competitive Western Conference. Getting players back remains a top priority, but the lack of manpower isn’t the sole reason for their current circumstances.