The methodical Utah Jazz had no trouble slowing down the fast-paced Nuggets.
Article continues below ...
Paul Millsap had 26 points and 12 rebounds, Al Jefferson added 18 points and 12 rebounds and the Jazz beat Denver 106-96 on Sunday night.
Gordon Hayward scored a season-high 19 points and Devin Harris and Alec Burks added 10 each for the Jazz, winners of seven of eight.
Danilo Gallinari and Nene scored 18 points each and Arron Afflalo 16 for the Nuggets.
Utah was outrun in the teams’ first meeting Dec. 28. Denver scored 117 points, 27 on the break, but it was a different story Sunday. The Jazz set the pace and Denver couldn’t adjust.
”We controlled the tempo of the game by executing our offense, which didn’t allow them to get out in transition,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. ”For the most part, we really controlled the tempo of the game.”
The game was close throughout until Millsap got going early in the fourth quarter. He scored 16 points in the period and gave the Jazz control of a close game.
”Yeah, he got it going,” Denver forward Al Harrington said. ”Nothing I could do about it, either. Usually I can cut a guy’s wood off. He’s a good player and he had a great fourth quarter, so tip my hat off to him. Good job.”
After a 3-pointer by Gallinari cut the lead to 81-79, the Jazz went to Millsap down low. The forward responded by scoring Utah’s next 14 to give the Jazz a 95-83 lead midway through the period.
”I just found a rhythm, just found a zone,” Millsap said. ”My teammates did a great job of finding me. There was a mismatch and we tried to expose it. Our team is very unselfish and they find the guy with the mismatch. You get in a zone like that, you get hot and start feeling it, guys just start looking for you.”
Harris hit a 3-pointer with 3:52 left to make it 98-85, Utah’s biggest lead of the game. Denver cut the lead to seven but couldn’t get any closer.
The loss comes two days after Denver beat Miami, a win that might have contributed to Sunday’s loss.
”I would probably blame (the loss) on our NBA cool,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. ”We thought we were cool after kicking Miami’s butt and we got embarrassed. The NBA game does that quite frequently. If you think you’re better than you are or you think you’re cooler than you are and you don’t think you’ve got to put in the hard work to win games, you get embarrassed – and we got embarrassed.”
The Jazz started fast in the third quarter, scoring the first seven points to take a 55-48 lead. Denver responded with a 10-2 run to go back in front, but Utah countered with six straight points to take the lead for good. The Jazz led 77-73 heading into the fourth.
Neither team could take control in the first half. Jefferson had 12 points to help the Jazz take a four-point lead in the first quarter, while Nene had 11 for Denver, which led by as many as five.
The Nuggets used a big advantage in free throw attempts to keep pace with Utah in the first half. Denver was 12 for 18 from the line while the Jazz were just 5 for 7.
”It’s a bad loss,” Afflalo said. ”Our energy level at the beginning of the game, despite having a tie at halftime score, wasn’t where it needed to be and as a result we lost.”
Notes: Utah F Derrick Favors left the game in the first half with a sprained left ankle. … Nuggets G Rudy Fernandez left the game in the second quarter with a right Achilles tendon strain. … Utah F Josh Howard did not play because of a strained left quad. … The Nuggets recalled rookie F Jordan Hamilton from Idaho of the NBA Developmental League.