Burks buoys Jazz in win over Nuggets
SALT LAKE CITY -- Feeling healthy has never felt better for Alec Burks.
Once again, Burks got a chance to showcase athletic moves that were buried under a mountain of injuries in recent seasons. It paid off for the Utah Jazz, fueling a critical fourth-quarter rally against the Denver Nuggets.
Burks scored 10 of his 16 points in the final period to lead Utah to a 106-96 victory on Wednesday night. He knocked down a 3-pointer that put the Jazz ahead for good as part of a decisive 31-5 run.
At one point, Burks extended the run with back-to-back baskets. He scored his second 3-pointer, and on Utah’s next possession, went up-and-under for a reverse layup. Such a moment offered internal proof to Burks that he has truly come full circle and feels like his old self again.
“I’ve been through a lot injury-wise,” Burks said. “It’s just great to be out there healthy. Just being out there on the floor healthy, that’s the main thing.”
Rudy Gobert scored 18 points and collected 10 rebounds to lead a balanced offensive effort for Utah. Derrick Favors added 14 points, and Joe Johnson chipped in 13 for the Jazz.
Utah shot 9 of 18 from the field over the final 12 minutes after trailing by as many as 15 points early in the third quarter. The Jazz did even better defensively, holding Denver to 5-of-15 shooting in the final quarter and forcing 10 turnovers.
By game’s end, Utah had forced the Nuggets to commit 22 turnovers and turned them into 31 points.
“This is a team that turns people over,” Denver coach Michael Malone said of the Jazz. “They’re very physical. They’re aggressive. Even at halftime, we weren’t doing a great job with it. I thought in the fourth quarter, we just really did a poor job.”
Will Barton scored 23 points to lead the Nuggets. Paul Millsap added 19 points in his Denver debut, and Gary Harris chipped in 14.
Utah erased a double-digit deficit with the second-half run, highlighted by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Johnson to end the third quarter.
Thabo Sefolosha finally capped the lengthy surge with a three-point play, giving the Jazz a 104-88 lead with 3:44 remaining. Eight different players scored for Utah during the decisive stretch.
“The points may come from different places every night,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “We just want to score. However the guys are generating them and however the game unfolds, we have to be opportunistic in who attacks and who scores. Try to find on the court the guys that have advantages.”
Barton ignited Denver’s offense early with his sizzling shooting. He made his first seven shots from the field and churned out 21 points before halftime.
Those baskets came at critical junctures to fuel various first-half runs for the Nuggets. Barton scored a 3-pointer, hit a pair of free throws and made a dunk over three straight possessions to cap a 17-4 spurt that gave Denver a 24-16 lead.
Each time Utah whittled away the deficit during the second quarter, Barton keyed another run. The Jazz cut Denver’s lead to 44-41 when Ricky Rubio fed Ingles for a pair of baskets and set up a Gobert dunk over a 42-second span. Barton answered with two free throws and a pull-up jumper on back-to-back possessions to quell the run.
It sparked another spurt for Denver, ending in back-to-back baskets from Harris that put the Nuggets up 56-47 with 1:42 left before halftime.
“I thought for three quarters we did an amazing job on both ends of the court,” Millsap said. “Offensively and defensively, we did what we wanted to do. I think toward the end of the third quarter and in the fourth quarter, we just fell apart. It’s a learning experience for us. We’ll watch film tomorrow and get better from it.”
NOTES: Jazz G Donovan Mitchell replaced G Rodney Hood in the starting lineup a few seconds before tipoff. Hood went to the locker room because of gastric distress but returned to the bench a few minutes later. ... Nuggets C Nikola Jokic had 12 rebounds and eight assists, but he finished with only seven points after being held to 3-of-10 shooting. ... Jazz G Ricky Rubio had nine points and 10 assists in his Utah debut. He is the third-quickest active NBA player to hit 3,000 assists (Chris Paul, 304 games; John Wall, 347 games), doing it in 354 games. ... Denver has lost six straight games to Utah in Salt Lake City.