SALT LAKE CITY – – Bojan Bogdanovic is thriving in a bigger attacking role. His renewed confidence in his shot opens the door for Bogdanovic to resume games by scoring at will.
Bogdanovic scored a career-high 48 points to rally the Utah Jazz ahead of the Denver Nuggets 127-120 on Friday night. Nothing the Nuggets have done against him defensively matters. He attacked the rim and rained down outside blows in equal measure.
Bogdanovic went 16 of 23 onto the field – making a career-high eight to 3 points – to lead NBA-leading Jazz to their fourth straight victory. He also had eight rebounds.
When the Utah forward scored his final points on a pair of free throws with 12.3 seconds left, amid chants of “Bogey!” Bogey! âFrom the crowd, he felt like he had taken another big step forward on his way home from a wrist injury that prematurely ended his season a year ago.
âI play better. I shoot the ball better, âsaid Bogdanovic. âSo I’m in good shape at the right time just before the playoffs. “
Many of his shots came at critical times to help the Jazz weather an early flurry of baskets from Denver. Bogdanovic’s playmaking skills stabilized Utah’s offense.
“What haven’t we seen of him tonight?” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. âHe read well. He really scored in every way he could.
Jordan Clarkson added 21 points and eight assists. Rudy Gobert had 14 points and nine rebounds, and Georges Niang had 13 points, all in the second half.
Michael Porter, Jr. scored 31 points for Denver. Nikola Jokic added 24 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds, Paul Millsap 20 points and Austin Rivers 18.
Utah didn’t hang around in the 11:22 fourth quarter finals after Niang hit back-to-back punches to give the Jazz a 103-99 lead. Denver only scored one basket in six minutes and couldn’t erase the resulting deficit.
The Nuggets reduced him to 121-118 on a free throw from Rivers. Clarkson responded with a 3 point drop with 51.7 seconds left and Bogdanovic’s two free throws in the dying seconds sealed the victory.
âIt’s a very well-trained team. The players buy into the system and they have fun, they shoot the ball really well, âJokic said. âThey play very well in defense. They play for each other and that’s why they’re the best team in the West.
An inability to take care of the ball hurt the Nuggets down the stretch. They made seven of their 17 turnovers in the fourth quarter, including two in their last two possessions.
âYeah, so they turned up the pressure (and) we didn’t handle it, we turned the ball around,â Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We scored 120 points tonight, but only 21 in this fourth quarter, so we definitely have to be better than that.”
The Nuggets scored just 47 points in the second half after scoring 73 before halftime.
âWe have increased our intensity,â said Gobert. âCommunication has improved. I think we have worn them down on the (last) stretch.
Nuggets: Rivers is 15th of 19 on a 3-point range in three games against Utah this season. He went 5 of 7 long distance on Friday. â¦ Malone was whistled for a technical foul midway through the third quarter after an unsuccessful challenge from the coach. â¦ Jokic made his first seven shots before missing a jumper with 38.4 seconds left in the third quarter.
Jazz: Clarkson has scored 3 points in 89 straight games. â¦ Bogdanovic surpassed his previous season high by 34 points in the third quarter. â¦ Niang did not attempt a shot in the first half. Utah is 17-1 this season when scoring 10 or more points. â¦ Joe Ingles finished with nine assists, a team high.
Bogdanovic’s 48 points are the most scored by a Jazz player in a regular season game in the 21st century. He finished with the most points in a game since Karl Malone finished with 56 points against Golden State on April 7, 1998.
Nuggets: Host Brooklyn on Saturday.
Jazz: Host Houston on Saturday.