Despite a rough start to Game 3, the Utah Jazz rallied, to rout Denver 105-93 and take a 2-1 advantage in this best-of-seven first-round Western Conference playoff series.
The catalyst for the Jazz's comeback, was backup forward Paul Millsap. The undersized power forward scored 18 second quarter points and lit up the Nuggets' defense with eight straight buckets in his record-setting quarter.
For the game, Millsap connected on nine consecutive jumpers, before finally missing one late in the third quarter. The Jazz forward finished the game with career playoff highs of 22 points and 19 rebounds.
In any previous playoff game, Millsap had never made more than seven field goals in a single game.
Jazz point guard Deron Williams was steller again, chipping in 24-points and 10 assists. His floor game nullified a terrific 25-point effort from Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups, who promised to come out and be more physical.
Billups was more physical, but it made little difference in the outcome. After the Nuggets jumped out to a 7-0 lead, things went downhill fast for Denver.
Utah's defense put the clamps on Carmelo, who played his worst game statistacly of the series. Melo scored just 25 points, well below his previous combined outputs of 74 points.
The Jazz's switchng defense confused Melo, who was hampered by five fouls and an 0-3 performance from three-point range. Anthony sat from the bench and watched, as Utah built a 23-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
The Nuggets are now in a "must win" situation for Game 4. If they lose Sunday night they'll be down 3-1 in the series. Only eight teams in the history of the league, have comeback from such a deficit.
Denver tried double teaming Williams to take the ball out of his hands. It worked for a quarter—but a Nuggets' defense without heart, is clearly not up to the task of stopping Utah over four quarters.
Combined with poor shooting from J.R. Smith and forced turnovers by the Jazz defense, Utah was able to get some easy looks at the basket and turn momentum in its favor.
Williams pushed the ball past the slow-footed Nuggets most of the night, setting up his teammates with dunks and layups. In the second quarter, Utah blitzed Denver with 70 percent shooting—mostly because they got to the basket for point blank shots.
Because of this uptempo game, the Jazz we're able to turn a first quarter deficit, into a 52-48 halftime lead.
If one thing is clear in this Denver-Utah series, it is that Jazz rookie Wes Matthews is not afraid of getting after Carmelo Anthony.
As everyone knows, Melo is an elite scorer and was supposed to have a distinct advantage against relatively unkown defenders Wes Matthews and C.J. Miles.
After Carmelo's huge performance in Game 1, the Jazz have clearly made adjustments.
Deron Williams, C.J. Miles and Kyle Korver are switching and rotating more frequently on Melo and it seems to be paying some dividends.
Still, it's been the pesky defense of Matthews that's made a direct impact. Matthews limited Carmelo to just 25 points on 11-of-21 shooting and forced the Nuggets' star into some bad offensive fouls Friday night.
Down 2-1, the underdog Jazz and Matthews are officially under Melo's skin...