Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
DENVER — As much as they wished they could, the Jazz didn't seem especially confident about being able to close out their first-round NBA playoff series with the Denver Nuggets with a Game 5 win Wednesday night.
No ridiculous declarations.
No press-stopping promises or cyberspace-clogging claims.
No braggadocio whatsoever.
And, sure enough, Utah fell 116-102 at the Pepsi Center, prompting the need for a Game 6 that's set for 8 p.m. Friday in EnergySolutions Arena.
"It's tough, man," Jazz power forward Carlos Boozer said. "I thought we had control of the game, for the most part, until that second half started.
"It seemed like they made every shot. We didn't get any stops. They hit jumpers, made a couple layups — and we was trying to come back there, but not enough."
Denver — which broke open the game with a 36-29 third quarter in which it shot 72.2 percent from the field — got a 26-point, 11-rebound double-double from Carmelo Anthony, 21 points out of Chauncey Billups, 18 from Kenyon Martin and 17 more off the bench by J.R. Smith.
"They had about 22 points in about six minutes (to start the third)," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said. "That's the run we talked about not letting them have — you know, before the series started. When they have runs like that, it's hard to beat this team."
The Western Conference's fifth-seeded Jazz remain up in the best-of-seven series, but at 3-2 their path to the second round suddenly seems considerably less certain.
If Game 6 doesn't end the series in Utah's favor, it comes back here to Denver for a decisive Game 7 on Sunday.
"We'll just have to wait for Friday," Williams said, "and get back to playing our basketball."
Utah was beaten despite the best efforts of Williams, who with 34 points and 10 assists became the first player in NBA history to start a series with five games of at least 20 and 10 — breaking out of a pack tied at four straight games, where he was joined in a select group comprised of Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and Kevin Johnson.
Boozer added 25 points and 16 rebounds for the Jazz, but on a night Kyle Korver when came up blank with 0-for-6 field shooting, their only other scorers in double figures were rookie Wesley Matthews with 15 and Paul Millsap with 16.
"They just had way more contributions than we did," said small forward C.J. Miles, who scored nine. "They were balanced out tonight."
The Nuggets were — despite adversity.
The Jazz have battled injury issues all series — small forward Andrei Kirilenko (calf strain) hasn't played a postseason game yet, and center Mehmet Okur ruptured his Achilles tendon in Game 1.
Wednesday, though, was Denver's turn.
Starting center Nene sprained his left knee in the second quarter and didn't return, leaving the Nuggets — who say he'll be reevaluated today — terribly thin up front.
Denver, though, wasn't about to fold.
The Jazz led 52-50 after an opening half in which Williams had 17 points and Boozer 15.
The Jazz actually were down six with 21/2 minutes to go before the break, but — with Nene already out — Utah finished the half on a 12-4 run.
Williams scored eight of the 12, including two 3-pointers and a pair of free throws with 1.3 seconds remaining before intermission.
The Nuggets came out firing in the third quarter, though, and took an 86-81 lead into the fourth.
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