Jazz snap Nuggets’ two-game winning streak, spoil Nikola Jokic’s 9th triple-double

Rested and ready, the Jazz showed out.

Having not played a game since Wednesday, Utah had the finishing fourth-quarter kick to seize Sunday’s contest, 125-102. The Nuggets, playing their third game in four nights, didn’t have the legs to keep up.

“The close of that third quarter was 10-4, and then they started 11-0 in the fourth quarter,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “… That’s when it really started.”

While Donovan Mitchell rained in four 3-pointers and sliced through Denver’s defense, his supporting cast of Rudy Gobert and Bojan Bogdanovic more than held their own. Mitchell paced Utah with 31 points, and Gobert added 18 points and 19 rebounds.

The Jazz outscored the Nuggets, 34-14, in the fourth quarter to render Nikola Jokic’s ninth triple-double of the season meaningless. With 25 points, 15 rebounds and 14 assists, Jokic exited the game tied with Russell Westbrook for the NBA lead in triple-doubles. Not that it mattered to the reigning MVP, whose displeasure and frustration was obvious throughout the night.

Malone also pointed out the free throw disparity, which ended 29-8 in Utah’s favor despite Denver’s insistence on playing through Jokic inside.

“I didn’t talk to (the refs) at all,” Jokic said. “I’m really trying not to talk to them because I try to and then I get technical, ejected. So I don’t even try to talk to them anymore.”

Aaron Gordon helped combat waves of Utah’s production with 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Bones Hyland offered 13 points off the bench, but on just 5-of-14 shooting.

Utah’s bench outscored Denver’s 36-24, exposing the depth and the difference between both teams at the halfway mark of the season.

The Nuggets fell to 22-20 on the season and snapped a two-game win streak. They’ll be back at it on Wednesday against the Clippers.

The Jazz cruised to a 73-60 lead to open the third quarter, threatening to bust the game wide open. But the Nuggets responded with a 20-7 run of their own, fueled by an aggressive, attacking mindset and a connected defense. Will Barton and Gordon were at the center of the charge.

If it wasn’t Barton playing downhill, finishing inside and getting to the line, then it was Gordon cleaning up on the glass. Jokic, who secured his second triple-double in as many games late in the third quarter, did his part in facilitating the comeback. The 30-23 quarter sawed away Utah’s double-digit lead, and the Nuggets entered the fourth down just 91-88.

Entering Sunday’s contest, the Nuggets had logged back-to-back games of 20+ 3-pointers for the first time in franchise history.

“It’s not just the threes that we’re making, but what kind of shots are we generating?” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said, praising their ability to find corner 3-pointers.

“I think the other important part of that is how we’re getting those,” Malone said. “I think the ball movement, 35 assists in back-to-back games, is an incredible number.”

One of the primary reasons for their long-range assault has been Hyland. Following a recent rut, Malone chatted with his precocious rookie and encouraged him to be himself. But he also wanted him to find a balance between blowing kisses to the crowd and going silent when the game turned sideways for him.

“You have to find a way to find a happy balance,” Malone said.

When Bogdanovic buried another jumper late in the first half, Malone could only put his hands to his face. Utah racked up 34 points in the paint en route to a 68-58 halftime lead. In reality, the Nuggets didn’t take much away defensively at all. Four Jazz players reached double-digits, and they knocked down eight 3-pointers as a team.

The Nuggets were playing uphill for the majority of the first two quarters. Only Jokic (18 points) and Gordon (16 points) were reliable sources of offense. Jokic torched Gobert in the post, finishing over and through the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

At one point, Jokic was so frustrated with the officiating that he went to bear-hug Gordon to demonstrate how Utah was guarding him.

WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com