Jazz survive Nuggets without WilliamsOct 30, 2008 - 4:55 AM By Tony Pizza PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- After fireworks and a new, revamped sound and light system rang in the start to a new NBA season, the action in EnergySolutions Arena did not disappoint.
Carlos Boozer had 23 points, 14 rebounds and one huge block as the shorthanded Utah Jazz - the team with the best home record in the league last season - picked up right where they left off and beat the Denver Nuggets, 98-94, to tip off the regular season for both teams Wednesday.
"This is one of the biggest games we play all year long," Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan said. "We don't play a bigger game than this because this is a team in your division, they come into your building, we don't play a bigger game. Obviously, the important thing is to try to win, whatever it takes to try to win the game."
Boozer blocked Nene Hilario's layup with 1:39 left to play, then scored Utah's next five points down the stretch as the team won its home opener for the sixth time in seven years.
The Jazz survived their first night without star point guard Deron Williams, who is out until next week with a sprained left ankle.
"I thought guys stepped up," Boozer said. "I thought Ronnie Price and Brevin (Knight) did a great job. Those two guys stepped up and collectively they did a (heck) of a job for us."
Kenyon Martin and Allen Iverson led the way for the Nuggets with 18 points apiece, but Denver could not overcome the absence of Carmelo Anthony, who was serving the first of a two-game suspension for a DUI arrest last April.
"I thought we had opportunities to win the game, we just couldn't get it done," Iverson said. "They outrebounded us all night and got a lot of offensive rebounds on us, outhustled us in the first half, and it showed in the results in the end."
After a tight first half, the Jazz took control in the third quarter. Ronnie Brewer scored six points and Boozer and Mehmet Okur added four apiece in a 16-8 run to start the second half, giving Utah a 66-54 edge. The Nuggets, after falling behind by as many as 14, gradually climbed back into it.
They closed the gap to five at 79-74 on the third of three 3-pointers by J.R. Smith with 8:22 remaining in the fourth quarter.
"J.R. Smith started cooking a little bit and next thing we knew we were ready to execute, get stops, and make our free throws," Boozer said. "I thought we did a good job down the stretch to get the win."
After Knight's bucket, the Nuggets went on a 6-1 run to level the game at 82-82 with less than six minutes on the clock. From there, it became a slugfest between two teams that will likely contend for the Northwest Division title by the season's end.
With Utah clinging to a two-point lead, Price came up with a loose ball after a wild scrum on the Nuggets' side of the floor, then flipped a behind-the-back pass to Andrei Kirilenko. The 6-9 Russian finished with a dunk to extend Utah's lead to 86-82.
The Jazz went 10-of-12 from the free-throw line over the last 3 1/2 minutes.
"That's important for us, especially how we shot free throws in the preseason," Price said. "We didn't have a good percentage from the line (in the) preseason, so we worked on those things in practice."
Still, Denver did not go down without a fight. Linas Kleiza buried a long jumper with 40 seconds left to make the score 91-90, but Boozer's jump hook with 19 seconds left put the Jazz up by three. Utah hit five foul shots down the stretch to hold on for the slim victory.
Martin missed a potential game-tying 3-point attempt on Denver's final possession.
Williams is still recovering from the ankle sprain he suffered on October 17 in a preseason game against the Chicago Bulls. Despite his absence, the Jazz still managed to hand out 17 assists as a team.
Third-year guard Ronnie Brewer helped fill the void with 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting. Price, who started at the point in Williams' place, was just 1-of-9 from the field but dished out five assists.
"Ronnie Price isn't new to it, he's trying to find a position and we tried him out at the point guard and I think he played very well," Sloan said. "We called most of the plays for him to take some of the pressure off of him, but I think for the most part (our guards) did their job pretty well."
In all, the Jazz had five players score in double figures - including Kirilenko, who had 16, six boards and a pair of blocks off the bench in his new role as Utah's sixth man.
Smith and Anthony Carter finished with 17 and 13, respectively, for the Nuggets.
UTAH 98 FINAL
Oct 29 11:35 PM
UTAH 75 END, 3RD QTR
Oct 29 10:52 PM
UTAH 46 HALFTIME
Oct 29 10:11 PM
UTAH 27 END, 1ST QTR
Oct 29 9:42 PM
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