Nuggets sing the blues in loss to Jazz


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SALT LAKE CITY – The Nuggets knew Utah was hostile territory, but a first-quarter altercation only cranked up the intensity.

Second-year star Donovan Mitchell slashed his way to 35 points as the Jazz hung on 114-108 on Wednesday night, handing the Nuggets their eighth consecutive loss in Utah and their first to a division opponent this season.

As dominant as Denver’s Nikola Jokic was, his 28 points and 21 rebounds were dwarfed by the Jazz’s parade of 3-pointers. Mitchell had six of the team’s 19 while the Nuggets were just 8-for-27 from deep.

Boxscore

The teams needed to be separated during a tense shoving match with 2:46 left in the first quarter, which resulted in ejections for Jazz forward Derrick Favors and Nuggets big man Mason Plumlee. Favors grabbed Plumlee’s arm after the play and then shoved him after a face-to-face confrontation. Will Barton was quick to the center of the scrum and pushed Jazz wing Royce O’Neale out of the way before both drew technical fouls. Barton finished with 22 points in what was easily his most promising game since returning from surgery. It was Barton who helped cut the fourth-quarter deficit to just four points before Mitchell helped salt the win away.

Though the ejections changed the immediate complexity of the game, there could be ramifications moving forward.

Jokic left the bench and took several steps along the baseline toward the fray. Jokic never reached the skirmish, but it’s possible that could result in a suspension depending on how the NBA interprets it.

The Nuggets were down 25-14 before the confrontation and immediately reeled off a 17-5 run largely fueled by Barton off the bench. He scored 10 points in the immediate aftermath before the Nuggets regained the lead.

Jokic, though, wasn’t done with the Jazz. He got in the face of Jazz forward Jae Crowder during a second-quarter dust-up, which spawned heavy boos from the crowd for the rest of the game.

“That crowd gets behind them, especially when they make runs,” Barton said earlier Wednesday. “They have one of the best crowds in the NBA.”

Crowder hit several circus 3-pointers that did plenty to rile up the home fans.

The Nuggets were rightfully wary of Utah’s defense heading into Wednesday’s matchup. Since Dec. 1, the Jazz lead the NBA in defensive efficiency.