Utah Jazz: Team begins slowly, finishes slowly in loss to Nuggets
DENVER — So much for the perfect season.
On a night Denver unveiled its Northwest Division championship banner for 2009-10, the Nuggets played like they have no intention of relinquishing their title.
And the Utah Jazz played anything but like a team that won all eight exhibition games while suffering their second-straight season-opening loss in the Mile High City.
This one got ugly early for the Jazz and pretty much stayed that way as Utah stumbled to a 110-88 lopsided loss to the Nuggets.
"I just don't think we played hard enough," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said.
"It happens," he added. "We didn't look too good, but it's not the end of the world. It's one game. I'm glad we get to play (Thursday)."
Even amidst high expectations and strong performances by multiple players, new and old alike, Jerry Sloan insisted a perfect preseason didn't mean anything.
Now the Utah Jazz only hope this season-opening blowout loss proves to be equally meaningless.
Center Al Jefferson had a dud of a debut with just six points on 2-for-6 shooting to go with seven rebounds, but nobody else stepped up much on offense, either.
Denver jumped out to a 9-0 run as Utah had three turnovers and three missed shots on its first six possessions, and the payback-for-the-playoff-upset rout was on.
"We didn't have much resistance," Sloan said. "We had a tough time trying to guard them and our offense, we couldn't handle the basketball. Turnovers killed us, and the way we tried to walk through things."
That sleepwalking, which Sloan indicated might have carried over from some recent sluggish practices, resulted in a stunning and telling statistic. The Jazz had more turnovers (22) than assists (21).
That sloppy performance and lack of team play by the Jazz paved the path to the cakewalk win for the Nuggets, who played like they were inspired.
"About anything they wanted to do they did it," Sloan said.
The inspiration could've been due to the return of head coach George Karl, who missed the final part of last season and Utah's first-round playoff series win while battling throat and neck cancer.
It might also have been because Carmelo Anthony, who had a game-high 23 points, came back after a rocky offseason in a Denver uniform.
Poor execution and a hapless effort by the new-look Jazz, who shot a miserable 38.6 percent, also played a big factor.
"I'm not sure why the energy level wasn't higher," Sloan said. "We thought we were still in exhibition season."
The biggest difference from their play in this one and the 8-0 preseason, however, was the lack of energy and execution. Jefferson struggled with Denver's double-teaming, and confusion and complacency seemed to replace the confidence Utah has shown the past few weeks while the new group jelled together.
Jefferson, a regular 20-point, 10-rebound guy in previous seasons at Minnesota who was traded to Utah this summer, was especially disappointed about his game and how he reacted to Denver's defense.
"I wish I could've been better. ... I've got to look to pass. I've got to look get out of that habit I had in Minnesota," he said. "In Minnesota I was a black hole when the ball came in. Regardless I tried to score, but now I've got guys who can make guys pay for double-teaming me."
The Jazz, though, didn't get much fire from their starters or any spark from their bench.
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