The boos started Wednesday midway through the fourth quarter, when a beaten-down Jazz team missed yet another jump shot and Danilo Gallinari followed with a 3 to give the Nuggets an 18-point lead, then their largest of the night.
The hisses continued through the final 6 minutes, heightening with each turnover and missed shot, every Nuggets basket that looked uncontested. Finally, from the 19,654 packed into EnergySolutions Arena, those boos grew into one collective moan as the final seconds dripped away from a 113-96 loss that moved the Jazz back outside the playoff picture.
“That’s whatever it is,” coach Tyrone Corbin said of the fan reaction to the Jazz’s first loss in six games. “If you play this game long enough, that stuff will never surprise you.”
But long careers do not cast low expectations. His team’s performance, Corbin acknowledged, was disappointing. It was, in fact, a surprise. The Utah Jazz (39-37) entered Wednesday’s game winners of their last five, looking to continue the streak against a team that, yes, had beaten the Jazz three times previous, but was without starting point guard Ty Lawson.
The Jazz were outperformed in nearly every facet, succumbing to Denver’s trapping defense, failing to get back in transition. The Nuggets (51-24) shot 60 percent from the field in the second half, while the Jazz settled for long jump shots.
“They just made shots and attacked,” Al Jefferson said. “I think we settled for too many jumpers and we got caught up in their game and they made us pay for it.”
Randy Foye was equally frustrated.
“When you watch film on them it seems like they’re not playing defense or they’re just letting guys run through and switching everything,” he said. “They do a good job of mucking everything up.”
Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 18 points, while Jefferson and Paul Millsap added 16 apiece. Marvin Williams scored 10 points off the bench, but was responsible for at least one killer turnover, when he bobbled a pass that likely would have led to a basket and cut Denver’s lead to 8. Instead, the Nuggets took advantage of the bonus possession when Corey Brewer sunk a 3 to increase Denver’s lead to 79-66.
Where Mo Williams and Foye had been electric from behind the arc in the team’s last two wins, over Portland and Brooklyn, the starting backcourt finished just 4 of 21 from the field and 2 of 11 from 3.
Foye had made 11 of his last 15 3-point attempts over two games.
“They did a good job of packing the paint in,” Foye said. “Big Al [Jefferson] kicked the ball out and shots that we usually make for the last eight, nine games now, tonight we just didn’t knock them down.”Next Page »