The Denver Nuggets came into Monday’s matchup with the Utah Jazz with a five-game winning streak. The Jazz were still without their leading scorer. In spirited fashion, Utah came out and definitively defeated its division rival 118-103.
After a solid start, Denver offered little resistance and the Jazz took advantage, simply running away with a very comfortable victory. Utah won for the fifth time in its last six home outings.
Alec Burks paced the Jazz with 34 points, while Derrick Favors had 19 points and 15 rebounds. Rookie point guard Trey Burke contributed 18 points and eight assists. Ty Lawson tallied 23 points and 11 assists for Denver, while J.J. Hickson added 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Burks making a statement: While Gordon Hayward’s absence was extremely noticeable in Utah’s last game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, backcourt partner Alec Burks ensured that he would help make up the difference Monday. And he ended up doing more than that — he had one of the best outings of his young career.
The athletic guard was dialed in from the opening tip, unleashing an impressive repertoire of moves. He was slicing and dicing, running the floor and hit from the perimeter. Denver had no answer for him. Burks was 13 of 19 from the field (including a pair of missed lay-ups he normally makes) and made all eight of his free-throw attempts. In addition to his 34 points, he handed out five assists and gathered three rebounds while only having one turnover in 38 minutes.
Burks made a statement in his fifth career start (all of which have come this year) that he is potentially capable of being a very productive starting shooting guard in the NBA.
Offensive explosion: The Utah Jazz offense was firing on all cylinders versus the Denver Nuggets. It simply poured it on all evening, starting with 35 points in the first quarter, 67 by halftime and 93 after three quarters. When the buzzer sounded, Utah had managed to score at least 25 points in each of the quarters.
Led by Burks, the Jazz had their way with the Nuggets’ lackadaisical defense. While Utah looked particularly sharp throughout, Denver looked discombobulated and, at times, disinterested. The Jazz connected on 44 of 79 shots — 55.7 percent. While they missed five of their last six 3-point attempts, the Jazz hit 8 of 18 from long distance. At the end of the day, Utah had 118 points despite a rather pedestrian fourth quarter.
Odds and ends:
• At one point late in the third quarter, the Jazz had 18 assists and only one turnover. During the rest of the game, they had four more assists and 10 more miscues.
• Randy Foye, Utah’s starting shooting guard last season, had a less-than-memorable return to EnergySolutions Arena. While he made four of eight shots and 10 points, Foye fouled out in just 18 minutes. He simply could not stay with Burks.
• Jazz swingman Brandon Rush’s play continues to improve. He hit all three of his shots en route to a seven-point, two-assist effort in 18 minutes.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.