Struggling Jazz limp home, look to finish sweep of Nuggets

The Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets enter their Wednesday matchup in Salt Lake City coming off losses to the same team — the Minnesota Timberwolves — but not all losses are created equally.

Denver saw its five-game winning streak come to an end Tuesday in a 130-115 loss at Minneapolis, but that setback pales in comparison to Utah’s.

Not only did the Jazz fall 126-106 to the host Timberwolves on Sunday to extend their losing streak to five game — and give them 11 defeats in their past 13 games — but they lost Joe Ingles for the rest of the season due to a knee injury. On Monday, an MRI revealed that Ingles sustained a torn left anterior cruciate ligament in a non-contact play at Minnesota.

Ingles, who has been the heart and soul of the Jazz for eight years, is in the final season of his contract. It’s uncertain if the 34-year-old Australian will return to play in the NBA again, let alone for Utah. It’s even possible his expiring $13 million contract could be used in a trade this month.

Regardless, Ingles’ injury is a tough one for the Jazz.

«That took a lot out of guys, seeing him, tears in his eyes,» Jazz guard Mike Conley said. «You know how much this means to him.»

Added teammate Rudy Gay, «It’s not even about basketball — having him in the locker room is good for us. He’s still our guy.»

Adding to the misery, the Jazz will play the Nuggets without All-Stars Donovan Mitchell (concussion protocol) and Rudy Gobert (calf). In addition, Jazz coach Quin Snyder and backup Danuel House Jr., who led the team with 21 points against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, are in COVID-19 protocol.

Also, Hassan Whiteside (back) and Trent Forrest (ankle) are questionable for struggling Utah.

Denver is also licking its wounds.

Though Nikola Jokic finished with his usual MVP-esque stat line of 21 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists in just three quarters on Tuesday, the Nuggets’ bench was outscored by the Timberwolves’ reserves 47-12 over the opening three periods.

Denver went to halftime trailing 69-51 after only scoring 23 in the second quarter.

«The game was lost in that second quarter,» Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. «Obviously our bench unit that came in, their bench dominated our bench in that first half.»

Malone said his team’s success starts with being «ready to play,» but that the Timberwolves dominated instead.

«I think those guys were geeked up … were the aggressor. They had us on our heels, I felt, most of the night,» Malone said. «They were the more physical team. Literally, that second unit in the first half just moved the ball, got open threes, got whatever they wanted. We couldn’t score to save our lives in that quarter, and we couldn’t get any stops.»

The Wednesday game will be the final meeting between the Jazz and Nuggets during the regular season. Utah won the first three matchups — 122-110 in Salt Lake City, and 115-109 and 125-102 in Denver. However, the Jazz had Mitchell for all three of those games and Gobert for two of the three.

–Field Level Media

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