The Denver Nuggets followed up one of their best first halves of the season with one of their worst second halves, falling 105-103 to the Utah Jazz on Monday night. The loss ended Denver's four-game winning streak and allowed the Jazz to keep their unbeaten home record intact.
Denver was monsterously effective on offense during the first half. The Nuggets shot 73% from the floor and dominated in the paint to get 65 points on the board. With the big shooting percentage, there weren't many rebounds to contend for, which left the Nuggets with a whopping 48-18 advantage in the paint at the half.
Utah started the second half with a quick 10-0 run, but two three-pointers by the Nuggets kept the Jazz from getting too far ahead. Denver then followed with what might have been their worst third quarter all season, a quarter which they had dominated in almost every other game, even in losses, throughout the season. Allowing the Jazz to seemingly get two baskets for every basket they got, the Nuggets played lax defensively and failed to stop the three-pointers from raining in as the Jazz got their first lead of the second half, 78-77, with 3:30 remaining.
The Nuggets regained the lead thanks to an Evan Fournier three-pointer with 40 seconds remaining in the quarter, but it didn't last. The score at the end of the third quarter was 84-84, and the Nuggets finished the quarter with an uncharacteristically lopsided scoreline in favor of Utah, allowing the Jazz to outscore them 27-16 in the frame.
Scoring was at a premium in the fourth quarter, as fouls started to pile up more than shots. As it has all year, free throws ended up being Denver's undoing. Kosta Koufas had a golden opportunity to give the Nuggets some momentum with three free throws but didn't hit any of them, which allowed the Jazz to push the score to 100-96 with 3:20 remaining. Kenneth Faried had a chance to tie the game with a pair of free throws with less than a minute, but could only sink one of them. They had a chance to win the game in the final possession, but Ty Lawson neglected to shoot and instead watched as the shot clock ran out.
Free throws proved to be the difference in the end, with Denver shooting a paltry 18-32 from the line. The terrible performance at the stripe continued to lengthen their streak as the worst team in the league at free-throw shooting.
Al Jefferson was the star of the show for Utah, putting up 28 points for the Jazz — a large majority of those points coming in the second half as the Jazz roared back from the first half deficit — along with five rebounds. Faried's 21 points led the Nuggets.
Denver will have to wait until Thursday to play their next game, starting off a California roadtrip with a game against the Golden State Warriors. The Jazz will start up a road trip of their own with their next game, facing off against the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday.