SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – If the Utah Jazz want to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference, they have to beat the best.
Wednesday night, they did just that.
Donovan Mitchell scored 35 points and made a season-high six 3-pointers to lead the Utah Jazz to a 114-108 win over the second beat team in the West, the Denver Nuggets.
”At the beginning of the year, I took tougher shots in all aspects,” Mitchell said. ”That’s my mindset. Making it easier on myself. Finding the open guys and then I create lanes for myself.”
As a team, the Jazz made 19 three-pointer, one off their franchise record.
Ricky Rubio added 17 points and six assists in his first start since January 7th, Rudy Gobert had 15 points and 11 rebounds, Joe Ingles added 14 points and eight assists and Jae Crowder had 15 points for Utah, which won for the ninth time in 11 games after hitting 19 3-pointers.
”For us to have three guys with six, six, and eight assists speaks a lot to how we were moving the ball,” head coach Quin Snyder said. ”Guys were spacing and ready to shoot the ball.”
”We knew they were going to be aggressive at the point of the pick and roll,” Crowder said. ”That’s what happened in the first half. We just moved the ball properly and got open shots and guys knocked them down.”
Nikola Jokic scored 28 points and had 21 rebounds and six assists to lead the Nuggets, whose two-game winning streak ended despite shooting 42 of 88 – 48 percent – from the field. Will Barton added 22 points and a season-high nine rebounds.
The game got a bit heated early when Utah’s Derrick Favors and Denver’s Mason Plumlee were both ejected with 2:46 left in the first quarter. The two shoved each either under the Nuggets basket, leading to more shoving from multiple players on both teams. Favors and Plumlee were both ejected from the game.
The Nuggets, who fell behind by double-digits in the first quarter, closed the gap and briefly overtook the Jazz when Barton made back-to-back baskets to cap a 9-0 run and give Denver a 31-30 lead early in the second quarter.
It didn’t last long. Rubio and Gobert scored on back-to-back plays to put Utah back in front less than a minute later. Denver tied it twice as the second quarter progressed, but the Jazz answered with seven 3-pointers over the final eight minutes of the half to stay in front. Mitchell scored four of those outside baskets and his final one of the quarter put Utah ahead 63-55.
The Jazz shot 13-of-27 (.481) from the perimeter in the first half, setting a franchise record for most 3-pointers made in a half. Denver stayed within striking distance by getting nine baskets in the paint in both quarters. The Nuggets scored 36 points in the paint before halftime.
Utah didn’t cool down from outside in the second half. Rubio and Mitchell bookended an 11-2 run with 3-pointers that gave the Jazz a 79-64 lead midway through the third quarter.
The Nuggets rallied and closed to within four at 111-107 on Barton’s 3 with 1:27 remaining. Gobert hit a pair of free throws on the other end, and then Mitchell blocked a layup attempt by Torrey Craig with 43.6 seconds left to help Utah halt the rally.
The Jazz (27-22) wrap up their four-game homestand against Minnesota Friday night.