THE FACTS: The Denver Nuggets must have looked at the Utah Jazz's five-game winning streak, said, "that's nice" and gave them a figurative pat on the head before tip-off of Wednesday night's game.
Because once the ball was in the air, the Nuggets showed the Jazz what a really hot, true-life NBA championship contender looks like in a 113-96 thrashing of Utah on its home court.
Danilo Gallinari had 21 points and Kenneth Faried scored 19 as the Nuggets improved to 17-2 in their last 19 games. Former Jazzman Kosta Koufos had a game-high 13 rebounds for Denver. The Nuggets dismantled the Jazz without explosive point guard and leading scorer Ty Lawson, who sat out because of right plantar fasciitis.
The Jazz had a five-game winning streak snapped that featured four victories against teams with losing records. Utah fell a half-game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for eighth place in the Western Conference.
Gordon Hayward had 18 points, while Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap each scored 16 for the Jazz.
QUOTABLE: "In a way I hate helping the Lakers, but now maybe they can help us. They have Memphis and the Clippers the next two games."
-- Nuggets coach George Karl on his team knocking the Jazz a half-game behind the Lakers in the race for the Western Conference's final playoff berth.
THE STAT: The story of the game was how Denver attacked the basket and got close-range looks, and how Utah did not. The discrepancy was reflected in each team's points in the paint where the Nuggets finished with a 58-40 advantage. The Nuggets, who lead the league in points in the paint at 57.8 per game, didn't get their points in the paint in the traditional sense of dropping the ball into their big men and letting them go to work. Denver, instead, penetrated, cut to the basket and ran on fast breaks to get to the rim.
TURNING POINT: Denver came out after halftime determined to put the game away and did just that. The Nuggets opened the third quarter on a 10-1 run to take a 66-52 lead. Offensively, Denver took advantage of a sleepy and unmotivated Utah defense as Andre Iguodala started the spurt with a 3-pointer and later added a jumper. Defensively, the Nuggets locked the Jazz down. Utah missed its first six shots of the third quarter and Denver mostly coasted the rest of the way.
HOT: Denver reserve point guard Evan Fournier is coming on strong while getting more playing time because of Lawson's injury. Fournier, coming off a career-high 19 points against Brooklyn on Friday, scored 18 against Utah on 7-for-9 shooting. Fournier had never scored in double figures prior to his last two games. Faried was in full "Manimal" mode, hustling, grabbing offensive and defensive rebounds and scoring easy baskets. He shot 8-for-10, had eight rebounds and blocked two shots. Gallinari shot 5-for-7 in the second half and scored nine straight points during a stretch in the fourth quarter. Corey Brewer gave Denver a lift off the bench, scoring 14 points in 28 minutes while shooting 4-for-7. The Nuggets' bench scored 48 points. For the Jazz, Marvin Williams got some easy baskets by crashing the offensive boards. He had 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting in 22 minutes.
NOT: Utah's starting guards simply obliterated the Jazz's chances of beating Denver. Mo Williams (2-for-12) and Randy Foye (2-for-9) combined to shoot 4-for-21. From 3-point range Foye shot 2-for-8 and Williams was 0-for-3. The Jazz relied on both players too much to make long-range jumpers, as the two guards were hot coming into Wednesday's game. The Jazz were 0-for-5 from 3-point range and shot 33.3 percent in the game's pivotal third quarter.
QUOTABLE II: "I can't answer that because we didn't stop them. They are a fast-paced team and they make you pay for every mistake. They play hard for 48 minutes."
-- Jazz center Jefferson on defending Denver
GOOD MOVE: Attack, attack, attack. That's all Denver did against Utah and it kept the Jazz on their heels throughout the game. The Nuggets easily drove past guys -- perhaps the most glaring came in the third quarter when Gallinari blew past Millsap for an easy layup. They also found open guys and dished to them when driving to the basket. They got whatever they wanted by getting the in the paint, executing pick-and-rolls and finishing. It was basically an offensive clinic -- and blueprint on how to score on the Jazz -- put on by Denver as it put up 113 points.
BAD MOVE: Utah completely got away from what had been effective for it offensively during its five-game winning streak. Instead of sharing the ball, playing inside-out and making extra passes, the Jazz mostly shot jumpers. They didn't attack the paint, draw fouls or put any pressure on Denver's defense. The Jazz took 18 foul shots, compared to 32 for Denver, mainly because they weren't aggressive enough in getting to the basket.
NOTABLE: The Nuggets clinched the season series with the Jazz for the just the second time since the 2003-04 season as Denver went 3-1 against Utah. Denver outrebounded Utah 42-33. The Jazz fell to 11-20 when they are outrebounded by an opponent. Andre Miller, who played at the University of Utah and got a warm welcome prior to the game, had 13 points, six assists and two rebounds. Iguodala and Wilson Chandler each had 10 points for Denver.
UP NEXT: For the Nuggets, Thursday vs. Dallas, Saturday vs. Houston, Wednesday vs. San Antonio. For the Jazz, Friday vs. New Orleans, Sunday @ Golden State, Tuesday vs. Oklahoma City.