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Nuggets drive by Jazz defense

Published April 3, 2013 10:45 pm

NBA • Denver wings face little resistance on their way to the hoop.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The stat sheet following Denver's easy 113-96 win over the Jazz on Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena told the story, if you looked hard enough.

The Nuggets scored 58 points in the paint — 18 more than Utah — even though true centers Kosta Koufos, JaVale McGee and Timofey Mozgov combined for four points in 44 minutes.

So what gives?

How can one team dominate another near the basket without its biggest players having an impact on the offensive end of the floor?

Call it Nugget Ball.

Denver's athletic, slashing perimeter players routinely got past their primary defenders, who couldn't keep them away from the basket.

Once the Nuggets penetrated the first line of defense, they scrambled Utah's interior defense and converted easy scoring opportunity after easy scoring opportunity.

"There are certain teams that are tough for us to match up against," said guard Jamaal Tinsley. "We rotate and try to help but … guys in this league are talented. They're professionals and sometimes it's hard to stop them."

Especially a team like Denver, which shot 56.2 percent against Utah.

The Nuggets rank third in the NBA in scoring, averaging 105.6 points per game.

"It ain't only us they do that to," said Tinsley. "It's a lot of teams. They put the ball on the floor and drive. That's how they are successful.

Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin admitted he was "surprised" Denver had so much success getting to the basket.

"They attack off the dribble," he said. "They're not a post-up team. They're a driving team and I thought, for the most part, they got what they wanted by guys getting into the lane and turning the corner on pick-and-rolls. We didn't do a good job of defending that."

Corbin was quick to credit the Nuggets for executing their offense, especially during a 57-point second half, when Denver made 20 of 33 shots and got to the free-throw line 18 times.

"They're good at how they play," Corbin said.

The Jazz trailed, 56-51, at halftime before the Nuggets opened the third quarter with eight straight points.

The 8-0 featured a driving three-point play by Danilo Gallinari and a drive-and-dunk by Andre Iguodala, who split defenders Randy Foye and Mo Williams on the perimeter and raced to the rim without resistance.

"They are just a fast-paced team and they make you pay for every mistake," said Jazz center Al Jefferson. "They just play hard for 48 minutes."

Asked why the Denver was so hard to stop, Jefferson said, "Obviously I can't answer that question because we never did stop them."