NBA regular season

New-look Jazz balanced effort helps stun Jokic-led Nuggets

Reuters
New-look Jazz balanced effort helps stun Jokic-led Nuggets

Utah Jazz guard Collin Sexton (2) tries to get past Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) and to the basket during the second half at Vivint Arena

Chris Nicoll/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

The Utah Jazz - no longer playing with the Mitchell-Gobert star duo - start a new era with a stunning blowout of the Denver Nuggets still led by two-time MVP Nikola Jokic

Collin Sexton scored 20 points and Lauri Markkanen added 17 as the Utah Jazz earned a stunning 123-102 season-opening win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night (Thursday, October 20, Manila time) in Salt Lake City.

Seven different Utah players scored in double figures to help this new era of Jazz basketball begin with a surprising victory. The Jazz had a wild offseason, which included trading away All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, among others, and hiring Will Hardy as head coach after Quin Snyder’s resignation.

Three of only five returning Jazz players were among those to reach double digits, including Rudy Gay (16), Mike Conley (13 points, 8 assists) and Jordan Clarkson (10 points). Malik Beasley (15 points), Walker Kessler (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Jarred Vanderbilt (12 rebounds) also had strong Jazz debuts.

Nikola Jokic led all scorers with 27 points and Aaron Gordon chipped in with 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Nuggets, who could never recover after falling behind by as many as 24 points in the first half.

Back from injuries, Michael Porter Jr. scored 15 and Jamal Murray netted 12 points in the defeat.

Gordon began the game with a steal and a slam and then put Denver up 9-4 with a layup and another dunk.

Kelly Olynyk and Conley hit consecutive threes shortly after as the Jazz took their first lead at 13-11. Utah continued to play strong and took a double-digit lead later in the quarter before settling for a 37-30 lead after the first 12 minutes.

The lead quickly grew to a surprising 21-point advantage as the Jazz scored the first 14 points of the second quarter, including 7 points from Gay.

Utah’s lead expanded to 24, 68-44, in the second quarter on a three by Sexton.

As expected, Denver trimmed Utah’s lead in the third quarter, opening the second half with a 7-0 run and then pulling within 10, 81-71. Kessler hit a bucket to stop the Nuggets’ surge and help the Jazz take a 94-80 lead into the final stanza.

The Nuggets pulled within seven, 105-98, with 5:35 remaining. The Jazz responded with back-to-back 3-pointers from Gay and Beasley for a 111-98 lead at the 4:51 mark.

It was all Jazz down the stretch. – Rappler.com

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