DENVER — Al Jefferson and the Utah Jazz will definitely know the name of "that guy with the dreads" from now on.
On Friday afternoon, several hours before their late-night game against the Denver Nuggets tipped off, a local female television reporter asked Jefferson his opinion about second-year forward Kenneth Faried.
Jefferson looked momentarily puzzled, then realized she was talking about the 6-foot-8, dreadlock-wearing Faried — or, as Big Al initially put it, "that guy with the dreads."
"Oh, I love him, I love him," Jefferson said. "He's a high-energy guy. You can tell how much he improved from last year to this year. He added more stuff to his game, and that's the type of player that Denver loves to have here because they're an up-tempo team.
"That type of guy comes with a lot of energy, get every rebound and just play his role. I'm a big fan of his game."
Jefferson and the Jazz may not be quite as big a fans of young Mr. Faried today after he performed precisely the way the Jazz center said he would, lighting the Jazz up and igniting his teammates with 18 points and 10 rebounds as the Nuggets dealt the Jazz a lopsided 104-84 loss at the Pepsi Center.
Faried, who played his college basketball at Morehead State and led his team to a first-round NCAA Tournament upset of fourth-seeded Louisville in 2011 — at this same Pepsi Center arena, no less — had 14 points and eight boards in the first half to help the Nuggets build a 15-point halftime lead.
Utah led 27-26 after the first quarter before Faried fueled a furious Denver surge in the second period. The Nuggets went on a 21-4 run that turned a 34-32 deficit into a 53-38 lead at intermission, and they were never seriously threatened again after that. Denver led by as many as 22 and never by less than 12 in squaring its season slate at 3-3 with a decisive victory over its Northwest Division and Rocky Mountain rival.
"It was a very disappointing effort," said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. "I thought they were more aggressive than us tonight on both ends of the floor. The things we talked about at the beginning of the ballgame — their transition baskets, they were going to push the tempo early — they got that. They were gonna have their hands on us on the defensive end, rushing us into shots — we did that, we didn't make a lot of shots. And as a result, the tempo was in their favor.
"We didn't execute. We missed shots, and you're going to have nights when you miss shots, especially on the road, but our defense slacked off. They took the intensity up on the defensive end and got their hands on us. I thought they got us out of our offensive sets. ... We just shot jump shots and they got in transition as a result.
"Usually we'll try and go inside and get something close to the basket," Corbin said.
"But for whatever reason tonight, we kept shooting jump shots and we didn't get anything attacking the basket. And if you miss jump shots on a team like this, you take long shots; they get long rebounds and run out, and it's tough to get back on them. And they get runs that way."
With the loss, the Jazz (2-4) remained winless on the road this season, falling to 0-4 away from home and 2-0 at EnergySolutions Arena, where they'll host the Phoenix Suns tonight before embarking on a road trip to the East Coast.
This, though, was by far Utah's least competitive road loss thus far.
"It's difficult," Corbin said of life on the NBA road, "and that's why, typically, if you can finish above .500 or around .500 or a little above on the road and take care of your home business, you're in good shape for the season.
"But it's a difficult thing. You've got to step up to the challenge of doing it, and if you're going have a great season, you have to take care of your business on the road and we have to get it figured out. ... I don't think we've put together a 48-minute game yet."
Gordon Hayward led a cold-shooting, turnover-plagued Jazz team with 15 points, while Randy Foye and Enes Kanter each added 13 off the bench. Paul Millsap chipped in with 11 points and Derrick Favors had a solid night with 10 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots — all in the first half. Jefferson had 11 rebounds but scored just four points for Utah, which shot just 37 percent from the field — including a woeful 4 of 23 from 3-point range — and turned the ball over 17 times.
Along with Faried, the Nuggets got solid performances from reserve Corey Brewer, who scored a game-high 20 points on the strength of five 3-pointers. Starting center Kosta Koufos, the guy who the Jazz traded away to get Jefferson in 2010, turned in a strong effort with 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks — surprisingly outplaying Big Al by a wide margin. Andre Iguodala added 15 points and seven boards for the Nuggets, and Ty Lawson contributed nine points, seven assists and three steals. But Faried was really the guy "with dreads" that got Denver kick-started on its way to victory.7 comments on this story
"His energy is contagious," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "It is a big part of why we were successful and it is going to have to be a big part of what we do this year.
"The second quarter was probably the best defensive quarter in a long time and offensively, I thought Ty (Lawson) was assertive early in the game and got us a lot of early baskets. He got us a lot of easy shots.
"The keys to the game were Mo Williams and Al Jefferson were 2-for-15," Karl said.
"It wasn't a pretty game, but it was a strongly well-played game."