The move was a surprise.
The results weren’t.
When it was announced prior to Monday’s first-round playoff game between the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets that Juwan Morgan would be taking Mike Conley’s place in the Jazz starting lineup, eyebrows were raised. Morgan, after all, hadn’t started a single NBA game, regular season or otherwise, before this week. The undrafted forward saw only limited NBA action both prior to the pandemic and during the first few weeks in the Orlando bubble, sitting out three games and logging more than 20 minutes in only two others since arriving in Florida.
And yet, when inserted into the starting five on Monday, the former Hoosier delivered.
Morgan authored a very Juwan Morgan-like line in Utah’s 135-125 loss. Although he scored only a single field goal, Morgan supplied what you’d expect: hustle plays, good defense and seven boards for good measure.
“He looked like a good NBA player,” Utah’s Rudy Gobert said. “He came out and he made some big plays, both defensively and offensively. I told him after the game that’s great, but now you have to do it again, and probably again.”
Morgan matched with Denver’s Paul Millsap, helping to hold the veteran forward to eight points on 3-for-10 shooting, three rebounds and zero assists.
Most notably, Morgan finished as a game-best plus-17 across his 25 minutes on the floor. Millsap, meanwhile, was the only Denver player to finish with a negative plus/minus.
“He did an excellent job,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “... I thought he was very active and aggressive and committed to the defensive glass. Lot of good things from Juwan tonight. We’ll look for more of that.”