Mitchell scores 46 as Jazz beat Denver to clinch the 5-seed, 118-108


SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah Jazz know their playoff seeding, but their opponent is still yet to be determined.

Donovan Mitchell matched his career high with 46 points as the Utah Jazz beat the Denver Nuggets in the Jazz regular season home finale, 118-108 on Tuesday night.

Rudy Gobert had 20 points and 10 rebounds, Derrick Favors returned from a 4-game absence and scored 16 points, while Joe Ingles added 10 points and 13 assists as Utah won its last eight regular-season home games.

Malik Beasley scored 25 points to lead the Nuggets. Monte Morris added a season-high 22 points and Jamal Murray had 22. Gary Harris scored 15 points for Denver, which lost its second straight.

The Jazz clinched the 5-seed in the Western Conference for the third straight season. They will open the playoffs either at Portland or Houston this weekend.

If both the Blazers and Nuggets win their final games, the Jazz will face the Rockets in the first round. But if either Portland or Denver loses, the Jazz will face the Blazers.

Meanwhile, Utah wraps up the regular season at the Clippers, in what will be a meaningless game for the Jazz.

“We’ve got a lot left in us,” said Mitchell, who made 14 of 26 shots from the field. “But tonight was huge. We played great defensively, and they’re obviously a great team. We’re just excited to get this thing started in the playoffs.”

Mitchell scored 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting in 11 minutes in the first quarter as the Jazz raced to a lead. Mitchell took a steal in for a layup and drained a 3-pointer on back-to-back possessions to help Utah to a double-digit lead, 24-12, late in the quarter.

The Nuggets erased almost all of their deficit in the second quarter. Harris scored back-to-back baskets to cap a 12-4 run that cut Utah’s lead to 41-38.

The Nuggets pulled within a point later in the quarter, but missed a chance to take their first lead when Nikola Jokic missed a pair of free throws. Ingles answered with a 3-pointer at the other end that sparked a 9-3 run as Utah moved ahead 58-51 just before halftime.

“There’s a reason they’re second in the West, and have won as many games as they have,” said head coach Quin Snyder. “Mike [Malone] has done an unbelievable job. One of the guy’s that’s deserving of coach of the year. We know that because we see them four times every season. I felt like we just tried to keep doing what we’re doing and do it better.”

After trailing the entire first half, Denver took its first lead at 61-60 when Harris hit a jumper to open the third quarter. Mitchell gave the Jazz some breathing room again later in the period when he converted a three-point play to spark a 13-3 run. Favors cut to the rim for a dunk to finish off the outburst and put Utah ahead 89-79.

Denver closed to within a basket again after consecutive baskets by Morris and Mason Plumlee cut the Jazz lead to 95-92. The Nuggets never got closer.

“That was probably the best team we played in the ast two weeks,” said forward Jae Crowder. “We answered the bell. Obviously, these guys are a good team. They played very well and have a lot of weapons and we answered the bell and got the job done tonight.”

The Jazz scored on seven straight possessions, punctuated by a dunk from Royce O’Neale off a steal that gave Utah a 114-98 lead with 3:24 remaining.

The Jazz improve to 50-31 on the season, the second time since 2010 that they have won at least 50 games.

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