SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's winning streak and surge toward the top of the Northwest Division seemed about to end.
Utah scored 17 straight points over the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third and rallied for a 97-91 victory over the Nuggets on Friday night.
"The first half and the second half, there was a great deal of difference in the way we played," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "The second half, we came out and acted like we wanted to play. The first half, they just dominated -- just kicked us all over the floor."
Deron Williams scored 12 of his 25 points in the third quarter and also had 11 assists, his 11th straight game with 10 or more. The Jazz pulled within a half-game of the Nuggets for the Northwest Division lead.
The Nuggets, who had beaten Portland the night before in Denver and appeared to be widening their division lead, but could not stop the Jazz once they got rolling.
"We played hard on defense and got some stops, which kind of jump-started us and got us going on offense," Williams said.
Williams was 3-for-4 from the floor in the third quarter and made all six of his foul shots for the Jazz, who opened the period 12-for-12 from the line after going 7-for-14 in the first half.
Chauncey Billups added 12 points for the Nuggets, who knew they blew a great chance to win a division game on the road.
"I just feel like every game is a playoff game at this point no matter who it's against," Billups said. "I think every game is important and if we don't feel that way then we are going to get beat a lot of nights that we shouldn't."
The Nuggets took a 47-28 lead on Nene's three-point play with 2:40 left in the second quarter, then the Jazz started a remarkable turnaround.
The Jazz regained their composure late in the first half, closing on a 9-0 run to cut Denver's lead to 47-37 at halftime.
Utah was fortunate to be that close after going just 7-for-14 from the foul line in the first two periods, but the Jazz somehow found their free-throw touch in the locker room. The Jazz opened on an 8-0 run to quickly eat away what was left of the Nuggets' lead.
"The energy wasn't there for us in the first half so we tried to be more aggressive," Williams said. "We needed to push the ball a little more and create a better tempo."
The Nuggets continued to flounder, then it got worse when Anthony was called for his fourth foul with 7:25 left and Brewer made both free throws to get the Jazz within 52-51. The Jazz went 9-for-17 from the field in the period, closing with two 3-pointers by C.J. Miles in the final 31 seconds while taking a 73-69 lead into the fourth quarter.
Denver's hopes faded early in the fourth quarter when Anthony was called for his fifth foul with 10:59 left while jostling with Andrei Kirilenko.
"They got every call. They got to the free-throw line. That's what opened it up and then the fans got behind them," Smith said. "And it's tough to beat them when their fans are going nuts here."
|Mehmet Okur appreciates Deron Williams' double-digit assists for the 11th consecutive game. (AP)|
|Utah (39-23) «||16||21||36||24||97|
|DEN:J. Smith 27 Pts
DEN:R. Balkman 14 Reb
DEN:J. Smith 5 Ast
|UTA:D. Williams 25 Pts
UTA:C. Boozer 16 Reb
UTA:D. Williams 11 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|J. Smith, SG||40||9-19||7-10||4||5||5||27|
|C. Billups, PG||39||5-17||0-0||3||2||5||12|
|C. Anthony, SF||31||7-16||5-8||5||2||5||20|
|J. Petro, C||11||0-2||0-0||3||0||3||0|
|L. Kleiza, SF||29||2-6||1-2||4||0||4||6|
|R. Balkman, PF||23||3-6||3-6||14||0||2||9|
|C. Andersen, PF||21||1-2||2-2||5||1||4||4|
|D. Jones, SG||8||1-1||1-1||1||0||1||3|
|A. Carter, PG||Did Not Play|
|J. Hart, PG||Did Not Play|
|K. Martin, PF||Did Not Play|
|S. Hunter, PF||Did Not Play|
|S. Weems, SG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|D. Williams, PG||43||8-14||9-11||4||11||2||25|
|M. Okur, C||39||3-12||5-6||6||3||5||12|
|R. Brewer, SG||36||4-9||8-9||2||1||2||16|
|C. Boozer, PF||35||4-12||1-2||16||1||4||9|
|C. Miles, SG||22||3-6||2-2||4||0||3||10|
|A. Kirilenko, SF||25||3-8||2-3||2||2||3||9|
|P. Millsap, PF||16||4-8||1-4||8||0||5||9|
|K. Korver, SF||14||3-4||0-0||0||1||1||7|
|M. Harpring, SF||6||0-2||0-0||0||0||0||0|
|B. Knight, PG||5||0-0||0-0||2||2||1||0|
|R. Price, PG||1||0-0||0-0||0||1||0||0|
|J. Collins, C||Did Not Play|
|M. Almond, SG||Did Not Play|
|K. Fesenko, C||Did Not Play|
|K. Koufos, C||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|