SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – The Denver Nuggets have been struggling to close out games, so they’ve resorted to just trying to win quarters.
Andre Miller, the oldest player on the team, showed his teammates how it’s done.
Miller scored nine of his season-high 15 points in the fourth period and the Nuggets defeated the winless Utah Jazz 100-81 on Monday night.
“We’ve been struggling, just like the Jazz,” the 37-year-old point guard said. “But we talked about just taking one quarter at a time. We remembered that tonight and held them down in the fourth quarter and closed it out.”
“Andre stepped it up, like he’s been doing for years,” Lawson said. “He was getting mismatches, even taking on bigs. He knows how to orchestrate the offense. He was getting himself a good shot or he was kicking it out to one of us for a good shot.”
Utah dropped to 0-8 and remained the only team in the NBA without a victory.
Miller hit a 3-pointer – he hasn’t missed in four attempts this season – and Faried added an emphatic dunk to power a 10-1 run that gave Denver an 82-74 lead with 7:13 to play.
“When things get tough, you just need to start working harder. We finally found a rhythm somehow,” Miller said.
John Lucas III drove for a layup but Miller responded with a pair of nifty baskets in the lane, and the Jazz couldn’t get within nine the rest of the way.
“The fourth quarter has been our Achilles’ heel,” said Lawson, who also had 10 assists. “We have been letting other teams do what they want. We have turnovers and give up offensive rebounds. Tonight we took it to them and got the crowd out of the game.”
Gordon Hayward had 22 points but didn’t score in the final period. Derrick Favors added 21 points and 13 rebounds for the Jazz, who extended their worst start to a season since moving to Utah in 1979.
“This is the NBA. We can’t look for excuses. It’s not going to get any easier,” coach Ty Corbin said after his team played its seventh game in 10 days.
The Nuggets had the fourth-best record (57-25) in the NBA last season, but a fourth straight first-round playoff exit ushered in new coach Brian Shaw after George Karl was fired.
Weary of Denver’s lethargic play this season, Shaw threatened to sit any of his players who fail to give maximum effort. The Nuggets responded with their finest quarter of the season in the fourth, even without starting center JaVale McGee, who has a stress fracture in his leg.
Shaw liked what he saw.
“Defensively, we contested their shots. We scored on the offensive end in the fourth quarter probably for the first time all year, and we had them struggling to score points,” he said.
Fighting a bad hamstring, Faried looked to be his lively self until he got hit in the throat during a mad scramble for the ball in the fourth. He put his head in a towel and ran to the locker room. He later returned to the arena, but the Nuggets were already coasting to their first road win.
“He played with a lot of energy, hit the boards, scored with a nice shooting touch when he got the ball inside,” Shaw said.
Denver outrebounded the Jazz 52-35 and outmuscled their big frontline, outscoring Utah 48-36 in the paint.
Behind Hayward’s 18 points in the first half, the Jazz led by as many as 10 before Denver erased the deficit and pulled ahead 46-45 at the break.
In the fourth quarter the Jazz missed layups, let balls go through their legs and got lost on defensive rotations – all reasons the team has yet to win a game. Utah shot 4 for 18 in the final period.
“Too many turnovers, too many offensive rebounds, wide-open layups. Yeah, I’d say a lot went wrong,” Hayward said.
The Jazz have a number of issues but foremost is their poor shooting – a league-worst 40 percent from the field and 23 percent on 3-pointers. Utah went 4 for 17 from beyond the arc against Denver.
NOTES: McGee, who started the first five games this season, will be out indefinitely after X-rays on Sunday revealed a stress fracture in his left tibia. … The Jazz wore road navy uniforms and red-white-and-blue socks to honor the military on Veterans Day. … Utah rookie Trey Burke, who broke his finger in the preseason, has been cleared for solo drills but won’t be re-evaluated until Nov. 25 for full team practice.
By MATTHEW COLES, Associated Press
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