SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Rudy Gobert scored a career-high 20 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and had two blocks as the Utah Jazz cruised past the Denver Nuggets 98-84 on Wednesday night.
Gobert was coming off his 22nd double-double of the season Monday.
There wasn’t much on the line with both teams out of the playoff race, but Jazz coach Quin Snyder said there’s plenty to work on during the final eight games of the season. That was clear after a lackluster first quarter.
The Nuggets scored 29 first-quarter points, then 30 in the second and third quarters combined.
Derrick Favors scored 19, had seven rebounds and three blocks as the Jazz frontcourt dominated. Dante Exum had a career-high 12 assists.
Kenneth Faried scored 19 points and added 10 rebounds for the Nuggets, while Ty Lawson finished with 15.
The Nuggets were hot offensively out of the gate, scoring 29 first-quarter points on a Jazz defense that allowed 29 points in the first quarter just once in March. That all changed in the second quarter as Trey Burke aggressively came off the bench and helped the Jazz start a 30-9 run with an array of jumpers and dribble-drive floaters. Utah picked up the defensive effort and the Nuggets went cold, shooting 5 for 23 in the quarter.
The third quarter was much of the same as the Jazz moved the ball quickly on offense and pushed the lead to 81-59.
Nuggets: The Jazz waived guard Ian Clark on March 26 and the Nuggets claimed him off waivers on March 30. Coach Melvin Hunt said before the game, “Hopefully he’s a Jazz killer.” … The Nuggets were our rebounded 49-39. … Denver won the turnover battle 15-6, but still couldn’t keep it close. … The Nuggets started four players 6-foot-9 or shorter. Four Jazz starters were 6-8 or taller and starting point guard Exum is 6-6.
Jazz: Favors returned after missing the last two games with back spasms. … Rodney Hood missed the game after suffering a concussion against the Timberwolves on Monday. … The Jazz split the season series 2-2. … Elijah Millsap had a career-high nine rebounds.
Lawson averaged between 16.1 points and 17.2 each month between November and February. Those numbers dropped to 11.9 in 16 games in March. The organization fired coach Brian Shaw on March 3 and replaced him with Melvin Hunt, who said Lawson’s role hasn’t changed.
“I love the fact that he looks like a point guard,” Hunt said. “They’re kind of the glue that pulls everything together. He’s kind of the guy that does that for us. Some nights it might be scoring. … Then it may not even translate in points or assists. … He and Jameer Nelson have saved my tail already in my 15 games. They know what I want and they’ve gone out in court and orchestrated — put guys in positon.
“I heard people talking about a slump. The dude’s been great. He’s playing some of the best basketball I’ve seen him play in my five years here.”
The Nuggets are 8-7 since Hunt took over March 3. He said it’s “not important at all” to finish the season with a winning record.
“I haven’t even thought of it,” Hunt said. “Every now and then I’ll see the record that we’ve had since I’ve taken over, ‘Oh really, we’re 8-7.’ Because I’m focusing on today. Trying to win the jump ball tonight. Not worried about the next step.”
Nuggets: At San Antonio Spurs on Friday.
Jazz: At Phoenix Suns on Saturday.
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