DENVER — PSSSSSsssssss
That was the sound of the fizz being taken out of the Pepsi Center by the Utah Jazz when they flattened the Denver Nuggets 103-93 on Friday night.
It might be even easier to hear the sound of confidence being pumped into this Jazz team, which vaulted out of the bottom spot in the NBA standings after back-to-back impressive road wins in Sacramento and Denver.
This double-digit victory over a 13-9 Nuggets team was one of the best of the season for Utah, which improved to 6-19 overall and 5-5 in its last 10.
“We’re still a young bunch together, man, a young group of guys, and they’re growing every night out,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “I can’t say enough about how pleased I am with their focus.”
The Jazz, young and old alike, gave their coach, teammates and fans much more to be pleased about than just focus.
Utah’s starting backcourt of Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke absolutely dominated the Nuggets’ starters.
Ty Lawson, back from a hamstring injury, and Randy Foye, who played in Utah last season, went 0 of 9 from the field and had just five assists.
On the other side, the Jazz guards were a dynamic duo on this night.
The fourth-year Hayward, who’s been mired in an annoying slump, had one of his best professional games, scoring 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting, grabbing a career-high 13 rebounds and dishing out five assists.
“I finally knocked down some shots, that’s for sure, and finished around the rim a little bit better, which is a good feeling,” he said. “I’ve still got to get better from the 3-point line (1-5), but I’ll take it.”
Hayward scored 12 points in the fourth quarter when Utah used a 30-18 strong finish to close out this victory.
“Gordon had a huge game for us,” Corbin said. “He came back and just kept fighting.”
Burke struggled from the field, missing 9 of 12 shots, but he scored 10 points and had 10 assists.
Combined, the Jazz starting guards had one turnover.
Combined, the Nuggets starting guards had zero points.
“That’s not just us. That’s the whole team,” Hayward said. “That’s everybody, especially on a guy like Ty who can get in the lane and really create for himself and others. What a team effort. That might not happen again the rest of the season for them. That’s huge for us.”
It was also huge how the Jazz responded to the Nuggets’ third-quarter push.
When Denver won 100-81 in Utah, the Jazz blew a 10-point lead and were manhandled in a 30-13 fourth quarter.
The roles were reversed this time around.
Former Ute Andre Miller gave the Nuggets an 81-77 lead with a finger-roll layup with 8:45 remaining, completing a 20-point turnaround in 12 minutes. Despite coughing up that 16-point lead, the Jazz were the stronger squad down the stretch thanks to Hayward’s strong play and stingy defense.
Denver, which had beaten the Jazz three straight times, only scored two points after Miller cut Utah’s regained lead to 94-91 at the 3:33 mark.
“We know that we’ve just got to be mentally strong and just continue to fight,” Favors said.
The 6-10 center, who scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds, showed that he was both late in the fourth quarter when he tucked his head into 7-1 center Timofey Mozgov and got hammered while throwing up a shot that somehow went in.
“I thought I broke my neck on that play,” Favors said. “I asked G, ‘Did it go in?’ I didn’t even know I made a basket. I just threw it up there.”
Everything Utah threw up seemed to go in early on. The Jazz jumped out to an early lead by hitting six of their first seven 3-point attempts and used that burst to take a 53-44 halftime lead.
The Jazz seemed to regress into the team that has had so many problems early in this season by blowing a 16-point lead in the third quarter, but they showed growth and guts in the final period.
“I remember (Richard Jefferson) kind of bringing everybody together, and saying, ‘They’re a good team; they made their run and now it’s our turn to make one back,’” Hayward said. “I think we settled down a little bit and kind of made one of our own. We played a little bit tougher, didn’t turn the ball over as much and made some shots.”
Now the Jazz will see if they can bring this road magic home with them Saturday night when they face the San Antonio Spurs (18-4) at EnergySolutions Arena before leaving for a long trip.
“It’s a great feeling,” Jazz small forward Marvin Williams said. “We extended the big lead. They made a run and we were able to make a run. They played with a lot of energy. We kept our poise. We stayed together. We kept executing on offense and defense and we pulled it out.”
Wilson Chandler and Jordan Hamilton led the Nuggets with 17 points apiece, but Denver fell at home for the first time in seven games.
The Jazz were also bolstered by a double-double from Jeremy Evans, who had 10 points and a career-best 11 rebounds.
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