Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets reaction: Jazz come up big sans Rodney Hood

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER 28: Derrick Favors #15 of the Utah Jazz dunks against the Denver Nuggets on November 28, 2017 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER 28: Derrick Favors #15 of the Utah Jazz dunks against the Denver Nuggets on November 28, 2017 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Utah Jazz posted an impressive 106-77 win over the Denver Nuggets last night that surprisingly came without the services of Utah’s leading scorer Rodney Hood.

I’ll be honest, Utah Jazz fans. When I heard that Rodney Hood would be sidelined for last night’s contest against the Denver Nuggets due to ankle soreness, I wasn’t too optimistic about Utah’s chances.

After all, it wasn’t all that long ago that the Jazz were in the midst of a streak of losing eight of ten games and were sputtering on both ends of the court, they were already without Rudy Gobert and Joe Johnson and the Nuggets, despite missing Paul Millsap, had been playing relatively well. At an 11-9 record coming into the game, certainly it wasn’t inaccurate to consider Denver a better team than some of the middling opponents Utah has lost to of late.

Nevertheless, even without Hood in the picture, the Jazz were able to put together arguably their most complete game of the season on both ends of the floor as they came away with a 106-77 drubbing of the Nuggets. The game was back and forth for the entirety of the first half and it looked like the game was setting up to be a memorable one as the Denver Nuggets even took a one-point lead into halftime.

However, from there, the Jazz absolutely dominated in the second half, outscoring the Nugs by 30 points (58-28) and holding them to just 11 points in the fourth quarter. Even without Rodney Hood, the Jazz had a hot shooting hand as they went an impressive 48.3 percent (42-of-87) from the field and 43.8 percent (14-of-32) from deep. With such an outstanding win, there are plenty of positive takeaways that I could rattle on about. But the following three are the ones that stood out the most to me:

Where’s the love for Quin Snyder?

I was absolutely appalled last season when Quin Snyder wasn’t even a nominee for the Coach of the Year Award. Sure, Mike D’Antoni had a fantastic year and was deserving of the final nod, but for Snyder to not even receive mention among the three finalists? Absolute blasphemy in my mind.

With all the injuries he had to overcome, the fact that he was still able to lead his team to the fifth seed in the playoffs was nothing short of miraculous. So far this season, with Dante Exum, Joe Johnson, Rudy Gobert and, last night, Rodney Hood out of the mix, Snyder is still figuring out the way to get the most out of his guys and earn tough wins.

Yes, we all know that there was a tough span where the Jazz couldn’t get things going on either end of the floor as they adjusted to life without Rudy Gobert and the other injured teammates, but Quin Snyder isn’t superhuman, he needed time to adapt as well. However, if last night’s win over a solid Denver team is any indication of what to expect moving forward, there’s no denying that Snyder has indeed adapted and that he is the real deal.

No matter who is out there, he gets them to perform and his ability to instill in his team a next-man up mentality is unbelievable. He may not always be able to throw the most talented guys out there (thanks injuries!), but you can bet that he’s going to frequently come in better prepared than his colleagues and with plenty of tricks up his sleeve.

He was without his first and third leading scorers last night in Hood and Gobert and still was able to make scoring look easy and defense a cinch. That is no small feat and it deserves recognition. Quin Snyder has been getting the most out of a battered Jazz team for two straight seasons now and he certainly deserves praise and recognition as one of the best coaches in the league.

Derrick Favors is hitting his stride

Speaking of Coach Quin Snyder being able to adapt, he’s in for quite a tough situation once Rudy Gobert returns to action. Gobert has been considered Utah’s best player and the face of the Jazz franchise this season, and he could very well prove all that to be spot on. However, there’s no denying that he struggled early in the year as opposing teams were able to clog all of Utah’s limited spacing with him, Derrick Favors and Ricky Rubio on the court.

Since Gobert has been out with injury and Derrick Favors has simply made the permanent move to starting center, he has started to look extremely impressive, much like the Favors of old. He was very solid last night as he put up a team-high 24 points on 12-of-16 (75 percent) shooting to go along with nine rebounds, five assists and three steals.

He has looked much more comfortable offensively and his defense, though not yet at Stifle Tower level, is certainly improving to the point where one could make an argument that he’s just as vital to Utah’s success as Rudy Gobert. Thus, when Rudy returns, Snyder may have to make some tough decisions.

One of the more common suggestions floating around Twitter is to still start Favors at the four-spot, then pull him a few minutes into the game and let him log the majority of his minutes at the backup center spot. I certainly see merit in this as Favors has clearly proven to be a starter-caliber player and deserves such a role, but I’m a little concerned about this option.

My biggest worry is that one of the biggest issues during Utah’s recent slump was slow starts. And if we’ve learned anything so far this year, it’s that the trio of Favors, Gobert and Rubio is a spacing nightmare and simply isn’t all that effective together. While it’s all fine and good to hope that since Favors would only be in there for a brief stint to start the game, it wouldn’t have all that much of a negative impact, if we already know it’s not that effective of a lineup, why go with it all? Surely there must be other ways to get the most out of Favors, right?

Yet, I also see the clear concern with simply bringing him off the bench to be the full-time backup as center. With how the Jazz’s current rotation is set up, their backup center Ekpe Udoh is averaging right around 15 minutes per game (which is exactly what he put up last night). Sure, if a more reliable Favors was the backup center, that would likely be modified, but still 15 to 18 minutes per game isn’t nearly enough for a guy that’s playing as stellar as Faves is right now.

Like I said, Quin Snyder has a very tough decision on his hands. Favors is playing fantastic and while I truly think Rudy’s start to the season was little more than an anomaly, it’s not unrealistic to say that Favors is playing and fitting in better now than Gobert did to start out the season.

As painful as it is to say, the ultimate solution with Favors may end up being to take advantage of this time where he’s excelling without Gobert to raise his trade stock, then trade him to fill a more pressing necessity. If Favors and Gobert are essentially the starting and back-up center, that becomes a little too redundant for the Jazz and they could potentially be better served removing the log-jam at the five spot and adding talent elsewhere.

I love Derrick Favors and honestly would prefer that he, Quin Snyder and the Jazz as a whole figure out the best way to keep and utilize him. But I’m not sure if that’s realistically going to be what his future holds.

Royce O’Neale could be legit

But enough of that side tangent, let’s get back to last night’s thrashing of the Denver Nuggets. While several players played fantastically, one unsung guy really stood out to me – Royce O’Neale. With Hood out of the lineup, the last guy to make Utah’s roster was able to log some significant minutes (20) in last night’s win and he took absolute advantage of them.

O’Neale finished with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including going 3-of-4 from long range. He was also an astounding +23, played great defense and inserted energy and hustle into the second unit. Alec Burks has looked significantly improved of late and actually had a good game himself last night, but given that he logged an identical 20 minutes and that O’Neale showed a lot of promise, Burks could very well be in jeopardy of losing some of his playing time to the rookie.

Royce is already a more tenacious defender and if he continues to rain threes like he did last night, it’s going to be hard for Quin Snyder to keep him off the floor in exchange for Burks, especially when Alec has seemingly fallen out of his graces before with untrustworthy and reckless play.

Who knows what the future holds for O’Neale in terms of his place in the rotation and who knows if last night’s performance was anywhere near sustainable. But the fact of the matter is that he’s clearly a hungry player anxious to prove himself and that alone could end up giving him an edge and providing him with well-deserved playing time, especially if Hood can’t stay healthy or Burks reverts to his struggles.

Next: Utah Jazz report card: Player grades at quarter-season

The Jazz’s win on Tuesday was a definite bright spot after struggling for quite some time not that long ago. It seems like the perennial saying in Jazz land, but yet again it feels like if this team ever gets healthy, they could be quite a threat.

They’ll be back in action on Thursday as they battle perhaps an even more injury-plagued LA Clippers team at the Staples Center.