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Utah Jazz: Defense sputters in Mile High air

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 12:11 p.m. MDT

Denver Nuggets center Nene (31), from Brazil ,and Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) go after a loose ball as Nuggets guard Ty Lawson (3) looks on during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) (Associated Press) Denver Nuggets center Nene (31), from Brazil ,and Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) go after a loose ball as Nuggets guard Ty Lawson (3) looks on during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) (Associated Press)

DENVER — The Pepsi Center hoops appeared to be bigger than the ones at Staples Center.

Unfortunately for the Utah Jazz, that went both ways.

A night after their offense was nowhere to be found in a lopsided loss against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Jazz hit some shots and scored just fine.

But their defense disappeared.

Rotations, team help, effort and any chance at winning all evaporated in the thin Mile High air on Wednesday night, too.

The result was another embarrassing 117-100 blowout — this one by the Denver Nuggets.

"We have to get better. … We've had two tough losses," said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin, whose team lost by an average 21 points in back-to-back nights. "We've got to get back together and continue to work and fight. We've got to learn to trust each other on the defensive end of the floor and get it figured out."

Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) is fouled as he drives between Denver Nuggets' Arron Afflalo (6) and Timofey Mozgov, from Russia, during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) (Associated Press) Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) is fouled as he drives between Denver Nuggets' Arron Afflalo (6) and Timofey Mozgov, from Russia, during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) (Associated Press)

Utah did hit 48 percent of its field goals in Denver's building after missing a whopping 61 shots while shooting 32 percent against the Lakers in an awful offensive showing, so there's that.

But Denver had its way with Utah's restructured defense, which resembled a church-ball team.

The Jazz gave up 68 points in the paint, allowed Nene to score 25 points, watched Andre Miller dish out 12 assists and Al Harrington drop in 18 points off the bench, cranked their necks as speedy Ty Lawson burst to the hoop time after time, helplessly permitted the Nuggets to shoot a sizzling 53.5 percent, and let the home track team run and jump all over, around and above them.

That was one long paragraph — and an even longer night — for a deficient defense.

Giving up lobs, drives, backdoor cuts and transition baskets disgusted Corbin.

"That's unacceptable," he said. "That's just effort. That's disappointing."

Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson (3) is fouled by Utah Jazz  forward Gordon Hayward (20) during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011,  in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) (Associated Press) Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson (3) is fouled by Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) (Associated Press)

The second-year coach had a longer-than-usual postgame chat with his team, taking an extra 10 minutes or so to try to impress on them the need to play harder and together.

Sure, they're a work in progress. They've got an odd mix of inexperienced talent and capable veterans. But they lack an identity and consistency, with the offense and defense trading turns at stinking it up.

"We've got to get things figured out quickly," Corbin said. "The effort we got for the most part today wasn't satisfactory, so we wanted to have a discussion about it."

Things started somewhat promising for Utah, which is in the midst of a rough six-games-in-eight-nights stretch.

Center Al Jefferson scored 10 of his team-best 19 points in the first quarter after missing 14 of 16 shots against the Lakers. But Utah's starting five of Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Big Al still didn't completely click, falling behind 28-23 after the first 12 minutes.

Denver Nuggets center Nene, from Brazil, drives past Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) (Associated Press) Denver Nuggets center Nene, from Brazil, drives past Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) (Associated Press)

Harris cut Denver's lead to 42-40 with a 3-pointer midway through the second quarter, but the Nuggets surged to end the half on a 21-6 run.

That put Utah in an even bigger hole — 63-46 — than the 10-point halftime deficit it found itself in against the Lakers the previous night.

And it didn't get any better in the second half, when the potent Nuggets easily earned their 19,155 fans free tacos for surpassing the 110-point mark.

"We've got to find out who we are, what we're about before we can make any strides and get better," Jazz backup power forward Paul Millsap said after a 13-point performance. "(We need to) lay everything on the line."

Rookie Alec Burks was a bright spot. The former Colorado player had 15 points — all in the fourth quarter — in his return to his college state.

C.J. Miles also had 13 points, while Hayward and Harris added 10 points apiece.

Denver Nuggets center Nene (31), from Brazil, pulls down a rebound against Utah Jazz's Devin Harris (5) and Gordon Hayward (20) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) (Associated Press) Denver Nuggets center Nene (31), from Brazil, pulls down a rebound against Utah Jazz's Devin Harris (5) and Gordon Hayward (20) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) (Associated Press)

But Utah had 22 turnovers — "sign of a careless team," Corbin said — and got outrebounded 45-39 by a squad that obviously wanted this one more.

"It's early and we do need to find out who we are," Hayward said. "I think it will be good to go home and have a day to watch some film, find out who we are as a team and hopefully come back and play with a vengeance."

Or at least show some effort on both ends of the floor at the same time in Friday's home opener against Philadelphia.

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