DENVER — Another night, another late collapse for the slumping Utah Jazz.
Falling 101-94 to the Denver Nuggets on the latter end of a back-to-back on Saturday night at the Pepsi Center, Utah lost for the fourth straight time and for the ninth time in its last 10 games, continuing an increasingly ugly end to the 2013-14 season.
Just hours after Friday night’s 111-99 loss at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers, where Portland outscored Utah 35-23 in the fourth to pull away for the win, the Jazz blew a 10-point halftime lead and were outscored once again in the fourth on Saturday night, this time 37-29.
Enes Kanter enjoyed a big night with 22 points and 14 rebounds and Gordon Hayward chipped in 23 points, but 23 Nugget fast break points eventually wore down the travel-weary Jazz, who only arrived in Denver early Saturday morning.
“They made shots, we didn’t,” Jazz coach Ty Corbin said. “They made shots in a timely situation and we made a couple of rotation mistakes. They made the plays down the stretch when we couldn’t.”
The loss, however, once again showed the potential of the young Jazz.
Going with a baby-faced lineup for the second night in a row, Corbin’s Jazz sprinted out of the gates on the back of Hayward, who scored the visitors’ first nine points and helped the Jazz to an early 9-2 lead. Like Friday, all seemed well after the opening stanza, where the Jazz led 23-18.
Utah’s defense, a big issue in recent losses, helped the Jazz hold Denver to just 34 first-half points, limiting them to 32.5 percent shooting and forcing 13 turnovers. Kanter had 12 second-quarter points as the Jazz took advantage of just 16 second-quarter points from the home side.
But in the third quarter, the short-handed Nuggets started to find their offensive groove and chipped into the Jazz lead despite missing Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, J.J. Hickson and Nate Robinson, all to injury. Powered by the high-energy Kenneth Faried, who tallied 13 points in the third including several monster dunks, Denver closed to within one, 65-64, after three.
“I thought we really had an opportunity to win this game tonight,” said Jazz rookie guard Trey Burke, who finished with 12 points. “I think we were just a step slower in the third and fourth quarter.”
After both teams went back and forth early in the final frame, Randy Foye’s 3 at 6:53 gave the Nuggets their first lead of the night at 77-76. Evan Fournier’s circus shot and-one less than a minute later pushed the Denver lead up to four, and the Nuggets never looked back. Fournier nailed two more key 3s, and Denver locked up its third-straight win and clinched a season split with the Jazz.
“I think in the first three quarters we played pretty hard, but they made six 3-pointers in four minutes,” Kanter said. “There can’t be any excuses.”
Former Jazz guard Foye led the Nuggets with 26 points on the back of 7-for-13 shooting. Faried ripped down a game-high 21 rebounds along with 24 points.
Jazz forward Marvin Williams didn’t travel with the team due to a bone bruise in his left knee. Corbin said before the game that the team didn’t have a timeline on when he might return to action.
The Jazz head back to Salt Lake City for their home finale against the Lakers at EnergySolutions Arena on Monday night before finishing the season Wednesday at Minnesota.
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