DENVER, CO - JANUARY 5: Will Barton #5 of the Denver Nuggets shoots the ball during the game against the Utah Jazz on January 5, 2018 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
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Trey Lyles Haunts Former Team as Nuggets Pull Away for Win Over Jazz

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider

Trey Lyles has never shied away from the subject of wanting to play well against his former team, the Utah Jazz. It’s not personal. Just business. And business was good on Friday night at the Pepsi Center.

Lyles punished the Jazz all night long, scoring inside and out on his way to a career-high 26 points to lead the Nuggets to a 99-91 win in a game that concluded the season series between the teams.

“I just tried to play aggressive the whole game and take the shots as they came to me,” Lyles said. “Just because I missed a couple of shots I normally would make, I’m going to keep shooting if I’m open and have a chance to. It was really me just staying aggressive and not letting missed shots affect how I was playing.”

Lyles got to work quickly and didn’t need a ton of minutes or shots to put up a high number. He knocked down four 3-point shots and was 9-of-17 overall. He did it all in just 28 minutes of action.

And, at times, Lyles did so in bruising fashion.

He’s made his name by knocking down 3-point shots at a high level, but the Nuggets found him for what turned out to be multiple mismatches in the post. He bulled his way to the rim, finishing with layups and one huge dunk. With Lyles exploiting nearly every matchup he had all night long, the Nuggets pulled away in the second half.

“There’s not a lot of things Trey Lyles can’t do offensively,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

As they did in a win over Phoenix on Wednesday night, the Nuggets turned up the defense in the third quarter and separated themselves. In fact, their third quarter saw them quickly erase a three-point halftime deficit and outscore the Jazz 38-16.

Lyles and Jamal Murray led the charge in the third quarter, scoring seven points apiece in the period. Nikola Jokić, Gary Harris and Mason Plumlee each added six points and the Nuggets were off and running.

Defensively, they held Utah to 7-of-17 shooting in the third. And that started with largely keeping ball-handlers out of the lane, which slowed Utah’s offensive attack. With the Jazz out of sync, the Nuggets took control. They turned Utah over seven times in the period and converted those into 13 points.

The Jazz never recovered.

The win pushed the Nuggets to four games over .500 for the third time this season. It was their 14th home win, and moved their record to 2-0 in January – a month in which the Nuggets have 10 home games.

Like Lyles, Murray also finished with 26 points, and he was on fire from the 3-point line, nailing 6-of-7 attempts from deep.

“I thought Jamal was huge tonight,” Malone said. “He had it going, played with great energy tonight. I loved the energy that he played with.”

Gary Harris had 13 points and Will Barton came off the bench to score 12 points with eight assists.

“We’ll have another challenge tomorrow night (at Sacramento),” Malone said. “This was a great win for us.”

Christopher Dempsey: and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.

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