DENVER (AP) -- Andrei Kirilenko went up for a dunk and had it
blocked from behind. He grabbed the rebound, only to have the next
attempt swatted away. On the third try, Kirilenko knifed between
two defenders and tipped the ball into the basket.
The Jazz were already leading by 25 points with eight minutes
left in the game, so Kirilenko didn't have to put in that much
effort. But he did and it provided a glimpse of the difference
between Utah and the Denver Nuggets early in the season.
With Carlos Boozer providing the offense and Kirilenko adding
the grit, the surprising Jazz stayed unbeaten with a 106-82 victory
over the slumping Nuggets on Saturday night.
"I think tonight we played hard," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.
"Anytime you play hard, you have a chance to win."
The Jazz have been proving their coach's point so far this
After opening the season with easy wins over the Los Angeles
Lakers and Golden State, Utah outshot, outrebounded and outhustled
Denver to put away the game early. Boozer had 30 points and 17
rebounds, Kirilenko had 16 points and tied a career-high with eight
blocked shots, and the Jazz shot 50 percent to open with three
straight wins for the first time since going 5-0 in 2000-01.
Utah has shot 50 percent, scored 100 points and won by an
average of 24 points in its three games this season.
"We are playing hard and are playing good team defense, and
sharing the ball offensively," Boozer said.
The same couldn't be said for Denver.
The Nuggets stagnated on offense, rotated poorly on defense and
were booed several times by the home fans after their second
lackluster effort in three games. Denver scraped out a win over
Minnesota in its home opener despite poor shooting, but had no
chance this time after hitting 39 percent of their shots and
falling behind by 16 points in the first half.
Carmelo Anthony had the worst of it, finishing 3-for-20 for
seven points and starting the second half on the bench. Earl
Boykins had 17 points, and Kenyon Martin added 14 for Denver, which
is 1-2 with games against Utah, Seattle and defending champion
Detroit coming up next week.
"I was disappointed in a lot of things with a lot of people,"
Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik said.
Defensively, the Nuggets couldn't find an answer for Boozer, who
was 6-for-9 for 14 points with five rebounds in the first quarter.
Then again, none of the Jazz were missing much. Utah hit 12 of 19
shots in the first quarter and shot 55 percent in the first half,
finishing with 60 points.
"I don't know if Denver was tired or what, but they didn't look
like they wanted to play," Kirilenko said.
Denver was even worse on offense.
In contrast to Utah's constant motion, the Nuggets spent most of
the first half standing around on the perimeter and the Jazz didn't
give them much room inside when they tried taking the ball to the
basket. Denver shot 38 percent in the half, scoring just 34 points
and walking off the court to a chorus of boos.
"Not much went right out there," Martin said.
Part of the problem was Anthony.
Last year's rookie sensation spent the preseason moving better
without the ball and involving his teammates more, two things
Denver's coaches asked him to work on. It hasn't carried over into
the regular season.
Standing on the wing and settling for jumpers -- much like he did
in Denver's first two games -- Anthony was off target from the
start. He missed 11 of 13 shots in the first half, including a
second-quarter airball in front Utah's bench as the Jazz yelled
Anthony, replaced by Rodney White to start the second half, is
shooting 25 percent through three games.
"It is off, there is no question about it," Bzdelik said of
Anthony's shooting. "But staying within the offense, moving
without the basketball, working to get good shots is everybody's
responsibility. I don't want to put it on any one particular
Denver F Nene missed his second straight game with a
strained hamstring and the Nuggets aren't sure when he'll return.
... Bzdelik was called for a technical foul for arguing a call in
the third quarter. ... The teams play again Monday in Utah.