ORLANDO (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah Jazz are feeling pretty confident going into their first round NBA playoff series against the Denver Nuggets on Monday.
“I really like the dynamic we have right now,” said center Rudy Gobert. “Everyone is on the same page, and I really feel like the best Jazz basketball is yet to come.”
The Jazz did lose all three games against the Nuggets during the regular season, including a double-overtime thriller in the bubble last week. But all three games went down to the wire, and the Nuggets are last in the league in defensive rating since entering the bubble.
“We’ve had spurts against Denver where we’ve looked really good,” said point guard Mike Conley. “During those spurts, we’ve had the combination of consistency on defense and consistency on the offensive end. If we’re able to do that during longer periods of times during these games, it gives us a better chance of winning.”
“The biggest thing we can take away from those games is how we can turn up the pressure on the defensive end,” said Donovan Mitchell, who scored 35 points against the Nuggets last week. “We just need to try to find ways to make it tougher on them. I think they do a good job of making it tough on us, so if we come in with the right mindset as far as attacking, making the extra pass and defending.”
The biggest matchup to watch in the series is 2-time defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert against Nikola Jokic. Jokic has averaged 29 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists against the Jazz this season.
“He’s a very good player, but I believe basketball is a team game,” Gobert said. “Like I always say when I’m on the floor, I’m not just worried about one player. I’m worried about the whole team.”
There is nothing like playoff intensity. But in the bubble with no fans? It’s going to be strange.
“If you’ve been in a playoff atmosphere, you understand the difference it makes to have a home court advantage and to have your fans involved,” Conley said. “It’s night and day difference than playing in the bubble. But, for now we’ve just got two teams coming into the gym and competing for a championship. So, it’s pure basketball.”
The Jazz and Nuggets will tip off the NBA playoffs Monday at 11:30 a.m. mountain time.