DENVER (ABC4 Sports) – Considering how the Jazz were missing three point guards, were playing the second game of a back-to-back on the road against the team with the best home record in the NBA, Thursday’s win over the Denver Nuggets could be considered Utah’s most impressive victory of the season.
Donovan Mitchell scored 24 points, including six in the final two minutes, while Kyle Korver added 22 points off bench, as the short-handed Utah Jazz ended Denver’s nine-game home win streak by holding off the Nuggets 111-104 on Thursday.
Korver hit six 3-pointers on his way to 22 points as the Jazz showed plenty of energy despite playing on the second night of a back-to-back and with their top three point guards guards out of the lineup in Ricky Rubio, Dante Exum and Raul Neto.
The win was Utah’s first in Denver since April of 2016, and was just the 5th home loss of the season for the Nuggets.
Utah led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter, only to see the lead trimmed to five with 8:41 remaining. Korver helped the Jazz on a 13-0 run to gain some separation and send them to their third straight victory.
“We thrive on moments like this,” Mitchell said. “I think that’s a testament to our character as a team.”
Jamal Murray and Will Barton each had 21 points for Denver. All-Star big man Nikola Jokic dealt with foul trouble but still finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.
A Nuggets win would’ve vaulted them into first place in the Western Conference after a Golden State loss earlier in the night. But they were done in by their long-range woes, shooting 28 percent from 3-point range. It was Denver’s first loss at the Pepsi Center since Jan. 15.
“I thought our defense was really, really great,” Korver said, “and probably won us the game.”
The Jazz wore their colorful uniforms with some players accessorizing with brightly colored shoes. Joe Ingles went with red sneakers, Mitchell salmon, Derrick Favors red and Royce O’Neale green/yellow.
But it was their play that stood out. Ingles had 15 points and 10 assists, while Favors added 15 points and 11 rebounds.
After a fourth-quarter spurt, the Jazz led 97-79 with 6:17 remaining. Denver mounted one final rally and cut it to three on a 3-pointer by Paul Millsap with 1:14 left, before Mitchell took over to wrap things up.
“Through everything we went through in that game, after everything, I mean, we came back and fought,” Murray said. “That shows how good we are.”
Utah turned up the defensive intensity in the first half, forcing the Nuggets into 10 turnovers and 1-of-13 shooting from 3-point range. That, coupled with the play of Ingles (12 points in the opening half) and Thabo Sefolosha (nine in the second quarter alone) allowed the Jazz to take a 52-37 lead into the locker room. The 37 points were a season-low in a first half for Denver.
“We know they’re a great team,” Mitchell said. “We just tried to find a way to make it difficult for all those guys to get those shots.”
The Jazz improve to 35-26 on the season, still in the 6th seed in the Western Conference playoff race. Utah next hosts the Miwaukee Bucks, who own the NBA’s best record at 47-14, Saturday night at 7:00 p.m.