Back from quarantine, Conley leads Jazz over Nuggets
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — For four long days, Mike Conley was confined to his hotel in quarantine.
He wasn’t about to be contained on the court.
Conley made a career playoff-high seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points in his return from quarantine, helping the Utah Jazz rout the Denver Nuggets 124-87 on Friday for a 2-1 lead in the first-round series.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: He’s a terrific player,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I know how glad our guys were to see him back.”
Conley left the NBA bubble for the birth of his son and returned Monday night. He went through a four-day separation that ended Friday.
While in isolation, Conley said he got about 30 minutes of outside activity a day to work on his game.
There wasn’t a hint of rust as he made his series debut. He was 7 of 8 from 3-point range and had four assists.
“Being on that court was all I was thinking about other than my family,” Conley said. “Thankful to be back and looking forward to the rest of the series.”
The 37-point loss tied the third-worst in Denver’s playoff history. The record is 44 against the Los Angeles Lakers on May 22, 1985.
The Nuggets had 17 turnovers and shot 37.5% from the floor. They were also 12 of 38 from 3-point range.
“They’re playing at a different level than us right now and we have to somehow find a way to not only match that but exceed that going into game No. 4,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.
Rudy Gobert had a career playoff-high 24 points for the sixth-seeded Jazz courtesy of numerous easy dunks and layups. He also had 14 rebounds.
“The good thing about tonight is we played our game,” Gobert said. “There’s nothing we did tonight that I haven’t seen this team doing before.”
Donovan Mitchell was held “in check” — as much as anyone can these days — with 20 points. He had a Jazz playoff-record 57 in Game 1 and 30 in Game 2.
Utah led by 25 in the second quarter and extended it to 39 in the fourth with all of the starters on the bench.
It’s the second straight lopsided win for the Jazz in the series after dropping Game 1 in overtime.
No time for complacency, though.
“I know the series can shift in so many ways,” Conley said. “We have to continue to keep fighting, continue to be consistent, play together and have fun while we do it.”
Nikola Jokic led third-seeded Denver with 15 points, while Jamal Murray had 12 points on 5 of 16 shooting.
“I just think we have a target on our back,” Murray said. “Teams are prepared for us, and they’ve been giving us all they got.
They did that tonight, and sometimes we think we’re good and we’re down 12 at the end of the first. I just think we’ve got to hold ourselves to a higher standard individually, as a squad, as a third seed.”
Nuggets: Will Barton III (right knee) and Gary Harris (right hip) have yet to play in the bubble. Asked about Harris’ possible availability, Malone said: “He’s getting in a really good place mentally and physically. It would be great to get him back at some point in this series if that’s possible.” … Rookie Bol Bol scored 11 points in the fourth quarter.
Jazz: Gobert’s previous playoff best was 22 points at Houston on April, 14, 2019. … Georges Niang had 16 points, including four 3-pointers. … Joe Ingles added eight assists.
Mitchell posted on social media a video outside of the hotel room of a quarantined Conley, who playfully banged on the window in the distance. The caption was: “We gonna see you soon.”
Finally let out of his room, Conley played more than 24 minutes and was 9 of 13 from the floor.
THIRD QUARTER BLUES
The Nuggets were outscored by a combined 74-48 in the third quarter of the opening two games.
“I have to have a much better halftime speech,” Malone cracked before the game.
It didn’t work. The Nuggets were outscored 35-20 in the third in Game 3.
Game 4 is Sunday.
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