DENVER (AP) Melvin Hunt keeps hearing how his speedy point guard is in some sort of slump.
On the contrary, the Denver Nuggets’ interim coach maintained, Ty Lawson has never looked sharper.
Lawson and Jameer Nelson each scored 18 points as Denver beat Utah 107-91 on Friday night, handing the Jazz their fourth straight loss.
”The kid is playing some of the best basketball I’ve seen him play,” Hunt said of Lawson. ”Ty set the tone, he set the table. He spoon-fed some people. He generated offense for different guys in different ways.
”That speed is special. It’s a special weapon.”
Right before the game, the Jazz announced that Hot Rod Hundley, the former NBA player who broadcast Jazz games in New Orleans and Utah for 35 years, had died. He was 80. Hundley called 3,051 Jazz games from 1974-2009.
There was a tribute and moment of silence for Hundley before tip-off.
”Clearly, Hot Rod Hundley is someone that’s meant a tremendous amount to the organization long before I got here,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. ”I’ve gotten to know him through the people here that have worked with him and spent time with him, have loved him and have been friends with him. I feel that sympathy through them and certainly the Jazz lost what they call a `Jazz Man’, and a tremendous one.”
Danilo Gallinari played with a sore right triceps and finished with 13 points for the Nuggets, who never trailed in this game. Lawson led the way by constantly pushing the pace. He’s trying to be more assertive instead of relying on setting everyone else up. He made 7 of 12 shots and had nine assists.
”When I started hitting shots, the assists opened up,” Lawson said.
Gordon Hayward scored 24 points in his return after sitting out two games with a sprained shoulder. Rudy Gobert finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
”They cause a lot of problems and they have a lot of guys who can shoot, so they’re a dangerous team,” Hayward said. ”Defensively, we just weren’t as good as we’ve been.”
Snyder began pulling some of his starters midway through the fourth quarter with the Nuggets up by 17 points. A few minutes later, they were all on the bench.
Utah cut the lead to seven points in the third quarter, but then Derrick Favors picked up his fourth foul and had to sit. The Nuggets steadily began to pull away, leading by 12 heading into the final quarter.
It was a streaky first half for both teams, with Denver going on a 13-0 run and Utah answering right back with a 10-0 run. The Nuggets then went on a 10-0 spurt. After that, both teams began trading baskets as Denver took a 52-39 lead at the half.
”The game just flowed,” said Hunt, whose team is 8-6 since he took over for Brian Shaw. ”We weren’t looking for certain things, just kind of played and found offense – the offense found us. We fell into a lot of things that I’d love to say I created, but it was kind of created from them playing hard.”
Jazz: Guard-forward Rodney Hood missed a second straight game with what the team called gastrointestinal distress. … Reserve Elijah Millsap had 16 points. … Forward Chris Johnson signed a multiyear deal with team Thursday. He scored six points in nearly 17 minutes.
Nuggets: Hunt said it’s easier if he doesn’t make eye contact with F Darrell Arthur (strained right calf), who sat on the bench in warmups but didn’t play. He knows Arthur wants to play even though he’s dinged up. ”I always tell him, `Don’t look at me,”’ Hunt said. ”If I don’t make eye contact with him, I can protect him. If I make eye contact, he might get out there.” … A phone beeped as Hunt was speaking to reporters before the game. He stopped mid-sentence and playfully said: ”That’s a $500 fine.” … Will Barton had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Owner Gail Miller said in a statement that Hundley’s voice was ”synonymous with Jazz radio. The expressions he used throughout the game broadcasts are legendary.”
Hundley’s signature line was, ”You Gotta Love it, Baby!”