Denver Nuggets collapse in fourth quarter, fall to Utah Jazz in season opener

Rick Bowmer, The Associated Press Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) drives as Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, left, defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in Salt Lake City.

SALT LAKE CITY — Will Barton had continued his streaky scoring off the bench, Nikola Jokic was flirting with a triple-double and the Nuggets’ offense was rolling against one of the NBA’s best defenses.

But then a double-digit Nuggets advantage turned into a season-opening collapse, as the Utah Jazz used a dominant fourth quarter to pull away with a 106-96 victory Wednesday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

The Jazz (1-0) erased a 15-point Nuggets (0-1) lead, with backup Alec Burks serving as the catalyst. The former University of Colorado star scored 12 of his 16 in the second half, including a dunk to lead off the fourth period, a pair of 3-pointers and a reverse layup to increase that advantage to 94-85 and send the home crowd into a frenzy.

Utah outscored Denver 28-13 in the fourth quarter.

Utah’s defense had no answer in the first half for Nuggets reserve Will Barton, who scored 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Meanwhile, Paul Millsap was putting together a nice Nuggets debut with 19 points and six rebounds, while Jokic was on his way to seven points,12 rebounds and eight assists to kick off a season full of expectations.

Denver’s lead grew to 70-55 on a pair of Jamal Murray free throws before Utah finished the period on a 23-13 spurt. A Ricky Rubio 3-pointer cut the lead to 77-69, and a leaning 3-pointer at the buzzer by Joe Johnson gave the Jazz another shot of momentum heading into the final period.

Denver, meanwhile, got sloppy in the fourth. Jokic air-mailed a pass intended for Wilson Chandler. Gary Harris stepped out of bounds. The Nuggets let Utah shoot over 50 percent from the floor and committed 22 turnovers.

After Burks’ flurry to begin the fourth, a Derrick Favors 3-pointer put the Jazz up 100-86. A Thabo Sefolosha and-one finish caused the crowd to roar again, upping Utah’s lead to 104-88 with less than four minutes to play.

It was the final punch of a night that started with offensive power for the Nuggets but ended with a second-half collapse.

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