Matt Harpring had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Karl Malone had
16 points and 10 rebounds as the Jazz held on to beat the Nuggets
92-81 Wednesday night.
The youthful Nuggets used their exuberance to stay close midway
through the fourth quarter, but the wily Jazz simply made more
plays down the stretch.
Utah ended the game with a 17-3 run, holding the Nuggets without
a field goal over the final 6:35 for its 10th win in 13 games.
"That's kind of what we hang our hat on, being able to execute
or get to the foul line,'' said Utah's John Stockton, who had 13
points and nine assists. "If we execute things well, we're pretty
Denver trailed most of the second and third quarters, but used a
13-4 run to take a 77-72 lead on Nene Hilario's fadeway with 6:35
It didn't last.
Harpring put the Jazz up 81-79 on a leaner with 3:45 left, then
Greg Ostertag blocked consecutive shots by Hilario and Ryan Bowen.
Stockton made just one of two free throws, but got his own
rebound and was fouled again. His two free throws pushed Utah's
lead to 84-79 with 2:35 left as the Jazz pulled away.
The Nuggets cut it to four on a free throw by Hilario with 1:51
left, but Stockton hit Malone for a layup to push the lead 86-80.
The Jazz sealed it with four straight free throws by Malone and
"Sometimes if you can keep your composure at what you are
doing, the other team will hopefully make a mistake in your
favor,'' said Utah coach Jerry Sloan, whose team has won eight of
10 against Denver.
The Nuggets had a chance at their third consecutive home win but
were again plagued by poor shooting.
Denver, the league's worst-shooting team, shot under 40 percent
(39) for the 21st time this season and was just 20-of-33 from the
free-throw line. The Nuggets also struggled with Utah's zone late,
going 0-for-12 in the final 6 1/2 minutes.
"When they went to the zone, our execution faltered a little
bit,'' Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said. I would like to see more
production out of everybody, including myself.''
One bright spot was Hilario, who continued to show why the
Nuggets took him with the seventh pick of the 2002 NBA draft.
He had seven rebounds and three assists by halftime, and opened
the second half by hitting a short jumper after stealing a pass by
Malone. Hilario followed with a dunk off a pass by Junior
Harrington, then scored on a tough reverse that bounced on the rim
three times before falling.
He finished with a career-high 24 points and nine rebounds.
"He is getting better and better and better,'' Bzdelik said.
"You watch him recently and you can see that he has grown.''
Both teams responded well to critical comments by their coaches
early in the week.
Bzdelik chided his players after they blew a big early lead in
an 89-75 loss to Minnesota on Monday, saying not everyone was
giving the same effort.
The Nuggets seemed to have a little extra fire against the Jazz,
with several players diving to the floor for loose balls early in
"Everybody was hustling,'' Harrington said. "I think coach got
his message across pretty good.''
Sloan complained Tuesday that his players don't always run the
plays he calls, and he had a brief shouting match with Ostertag
during a loss to Phoenix on Sunday.
Ostertag spent most of the second half against the Suns on the
bench but didn't seem to be bothered by it against Denver. He was
aggressive early and even clenched his fists when a shot didn't
fall in the first quarter.
Ostertag blocked three shots in the first 6 minutes and
finished with 13 points and nine rebounds before fouling out late.
"Too much was made of it.'' Ostertag said. "It always a funny
thing because it is a yearly ritual for us. You can't dwell on it.
You have say what you have to say, get it off your chest and go
Denver F Chris Andersen has been cleared to play after
missing nearly seven weeks with a broken right thumb. He didn't
play against the Jazz but could be back in the lineup Friday
against Cleveland. ... Howard, who finished with 12 points,
received a technical late in the second quarter after being called
for a foul against Malone. ... Utah's Tony Massenburg got a
technical in the third for a foul call against Mark Blount. ...
Utah is 8-1 against the Midwest Division this season.