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Aaron Falk, Tony Jones and Steve Luhm cover the Utah Jazz and the NBA for The Salt Lake Tribune. The Tribune on Twitter - Aaron Falk: @tribjazz, Steve Luhm: @sluhm, Tony Jones: @Tjonessltrib

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Jazz take down Nuggets, earn No. 5 seed in playoffs

Las Vegas - You can tell Trey Burke isn’t wild about summer league basketball.

Following Tuesday’s 87-69 win over the Denver Nuggets, the second year Utah Jazz point guard stopped just short of calling it playground ball. He clearly likes the regular season, saying that summer league style is 100 miles per hour. You get the inkling that after this year, if he never plays in or sees another NBA summer league game, Burke will be just fine.

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At the same time, this is a learning experience for him, and he’s done a good job of recognizing that. He knows that he has to work on things, and he’s done that over the course of this week. No, Burke isn’t blowing away the competition, like Jazz fans have hoped he would. But his improvement has been flow and steady. Baby steps.

"Everyone plays so hard and fast in summer league," Burke said. "It’s hard to get comfortable out there. It’s different in the regular season. The game and the pace is slower, and you get a feel out there for things."

So while everyone goes as hard as they can, Burke has found a way to slow his game down, let it come to him. The results have been tangible over the last two nights.

For the second consecutive game, Burke has been the exact kind of floor leader the Jazz have been looking for. On Monday against the Bucks, Burke had six rebounds and six assists. Against the Nuggets on Tuesday, he had 11 points, six rebounds and three assists.

He got the Jazz into their sets. The ball moved crisp and efficient for the second straight night, and Utah’s offense was hard to defend, even without Rudy Gobert in the middle.

"I thought we did a good job on both ends," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "I thought we started out slow defensively, but we picked it up. I thought the bench helped us out on offense, especially Ian Clark. We were a little tired out there, you could tell."

The Jazz appear to have a first round bye in the Las Vegas Summer League playoff format. They will get the No. 5 seed, and probably play the San Antonio/Milwaukee winner on Thursday. That would mean a possible rematch with Jabari Parker.

Utah played the Nuggets without Rudy Gobert, who sat out because of shoulder soreness. In his stead, Clark and Malcolm Thomas both played very well, which was good because rookies Dante Exum and Rodney Hood both struggled with turnovers and shooting the ball.

Exum had six points, but didn’t score in the second half, and barely played past halftime. Hood missed a lot of open shots. He played better than Exum did, but neither looked sharp, or had much energy.

"It’s part of being a rookie," Snyder said. "I think everyone needs a breath, a day off. It will be good for guys to take a step back."

Tony Jones

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