David Zalubowski, AP
Utah Jazz forward Richard Jefferson, left, congratulates guard Gordon Hayward after he hit a key basket and drew a foul against the Denver Nuggets late in the fourth quarter of Utah's 103-93 victory in an NBA basketball game in Denver on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Coming into Friday’s game with the Denver Nuggets, the Utah Jazz had only one winning streak all season. After a spirited fourth quarter propelled them to a 103-93 victory, Utah now has its second. The Jazz earned a well-fought win, moving them to a 6-19 record.
Off the heels of their solid win over the short-handed Sacramento Kings, the Jazz came to the Mile High City to confront their longtime division rivals, the Nuggets. Utah again came out strongly, setting the tone with six 3-pointers in the first eight minutes. Denver then took control with a 31-20 third quarter. The Jazz could have wilted, but they not only kept battling, but simply dominated down the stretch. With several guys stepping up, Utah rode a 30-18 quarter of its own.
The Jazz now return to Salt Lake City for one home game before embarking on another long road trip.
Hayward’s haymaker: Much has been said this season about Gordon Hayward’s shooting struggles. While his marksmanship has been off, he typically has contributed in other ways. Against the Nuggets, Hayward put it all together. Simply put, he was the best player on the court.
The stat sheet clearly showed Hayward’s excellence. The shooting guard connected on 11 of 18 from the floor and hit all seven free-throw attempts en route to a 30-point outing. He snared a career-best 13 rebounds and had five assists without accruing a single turnover in 38 minutes.
But it was the way he did it that impressed. When he came back in the game with 9:02 remaining, the Jazz were down 79-75. Spurred by Hayward’s heady play, Utah went on to outscore Denver 28-14 to close things out. Down the stretch, Hayward made one big play after another, aggressively taking the ball to the hoop and sneaking in to grab some crucial rebounds.
This and that:
• Credit goes to Denver point guard Ty Lawson, who fought through a nagging injury to play Friday. That said, he clearly was not his normal dynamic self. He and backcourt partner Randy Foye went scoreless, which is tough enough to overcome. Compound that with the 40 points Hayward and Trey Burke put in. The Utah duo also doled out 15 assists with only one turnover.
• The Nuggets' bench did come to play, pouring in 57 points to the 19 Utah’s reserves registered.
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• Denver had no answer for Derrick Favors, who went 9 of 13 from the field for 19 points and six rebounds. His defense, however, was the most impressive aspect of his game. Favors rotated well and made it difficult for the Nuggets' big men.
• Utah saw three players manage double-doubles in Hayward, Burke and springy Jeremy Evans.
• Every Jazz starter had a positive +/- mark.
• Denver continues to play with key player Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.