On January 26, 2007 the Utah Jazz and the Denver Nuggets traded bullets in a wild back-and-forth shootout that went down to the final minute – with the Jazz prevailing 116-111.
While broadcasting a Jazz game in Denver later in the 2006-07 season, ESPN’s Bill Walton brought up their January 26th meeting, saying “It was one of the greatest games of the entire NBA season. I’m watching it and saying ‘We have got to get these guys on our [station].”
True enough, Utah’s 116-111 victory had a little bit of everything. The Nuggets’ superstar duo of Allen Iverson (33 points) and Carmelo Anthony (37 points) came out on fire leading Denver to a 67-62 first-half lead. The Jazz stayed within striking distance but a sprained ankle late in the first-half would sideline Jazz starter Andrei Kirilenko for the remainder of the game.
With a slew of minutes available and the Nuggets in control, in stepped 21-year old rookie Ronnie Brewer (12 points). Trailing 82-71 with 4-minutes remaining in the 3rd-qtr, the Jazz strung together a run where Brewer followed a Carlos Boozer 3pt-play with back-to-back layups to bring the Jazz within 4 and force the Nuggets to call for time.
Brewer’s hustle and athleticism re-energized a capacity crowd at Energy Solutions Arena and the game would be a see-saw affair the rest of the way. A slew of wild plays gave the Nuggets a 1-point lead with 45-seconds left, but twice in the final 2-minutes Carlos Boozer regained the lead for the Jazz with his 2 FT’s putting Utah ahead for good 112-111 with 31.9 seconds remaining.
Boozer finished with 25 points and 19 rebounds, Deron Williams added 16 points and 12 assists, Mehmet Okur scored 14 and the Jazz also received a whopping 46 points off the bench (including 13 by Gordon Giricek, 12 by Brewer and 11 by Matt Harpring).
- Now that’s what a real Jazz crowd sounded like.
- Jerry Sloan used five different defenders on Melo in an attempt to wear him down, guarding him with Kirilenko, Harpring, Derek Fisher, Brewer and even Paul Millsap
- The Nuggets were steadily gaining momentum in the 3rd-qtr when Carmelo Anthony completely flubbed a wide-open layup in transition, much to the crowd’s delight. There are few things Jazz fans enjoy more than taunting Melo, and that really brought them back into the game.
- Kevin O’Connor, who was often deeply involved in games, was really fired up in the 2nd-half. If you watch him after Denver timeouts at 82-78 3:09 3rd-Qtr and 91-87 0:00 3rd-Qtr – he’s out of his seat enthusiastically fist-pumping.
- Jerry Sloan closed the game with a “big lineup” where rookie Paul Millsap played up front along with Boozer and Okur. The backcourt featured Deron Williams at point and either Brewer or Matt Harpring at SG.
- This game was a reminder that Carlos Boozer was really good offensively. In 2006-07 he was one of the 8 best players in the NBA and even with the emergence of Deron Williams, Booze was still the leader on a Jazz team that would advance to the Conference Finals. Boozer was a beast on the boards – and on the foul resulting in his game-winning FT’s Nene tried to bear-hug him to keep him off the glass.
- Few things are more enjoyable about Jazzbasketball than beating Denver while listening to longtime Nuggets broadcaster Scott Hasitngs whine about it.
Utah’s win was the 5th of a 6-game winning streak they would build over the Nuggets spanning from 2005-07. The Jazz would take 3 of the 4 games in 2007-08 and in 2010 upset 4th-seeded Denver in a 6-game playoff series despite missing Kirilenko and Okur to injury. The Nuggets averaged 51 wins between 2006-10 but the Jazz routinely caused them problems – taking advantage of Denver’s porous defense with superior offensive efficiency and scoring punch that often out-executed Denver’s own high-powered offense that was more free-wheeling and isolation oriented. Nearly all Jazz/Nuggets games in those years were high-scoring, exciting and emotional – and this was one of the best.
Tonight’s Nuggets/Jazz game figures to be anything but a classic, but still important for a Jazz team on the brink of losing their season. After 3 wire-to-wire blowout losses in their last 4 games, the Jazz need to make this somewhat of a competitive game. Another listless start (on national TV no less) and things could get ugly very quickly in a division rivalry that once treated us to a thrilling style of basketball.