Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert pulls in a rebound in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets ,Sunday Jan. 16, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
DENVER (AP) — Rudy Gobert had 18 points and 19 rebounds in his return to Utah’s lineup, Donovan Mitchell scored 31 points and the Jazz beat the Denver Nuggets 125-102 on Sunday night.
Bojan Bogdanovic finished with 21 points to help the Jazz end a four-game skid.
Gobert had missed the previous five games after testing positive for COVID-19. Utah beat Denver in its first game without him but then dropped the next four.
“I felt pretty good. Every time you play in Denver you’re going to get tired at some point,” Gobert said. “I got tired in the first and third quarter but I felt great, better than I usually do in Denver. Just grateful to be back.”
The Jazz have won all three meetings with the Nuggets his season, including two on the road, and in this one they used a big fourth quarter to pull away.
“You don’t want to lose five straight. This is a big game in the division to win the series,” Mitchell said. “With Rudy coming back we want to play well. We hadn’t played well as a group and we finally figured it out a little bit tonight.”
Nikola Jokic finished with 25 points, 15 rebounds and 14 assists for his second triple-double in two days to lead Denver. He tied Russell Westbrook for the most in the NBA this season with nine and now has 66 in his career.
Aaron Gordon scored 20 points and Will Barton added 16 for the Nuggets, who averaged 136.5 points in their last two games but scored just 14 in the fourth quarter on Sunday. It was their third game in four nights while the Jazz had not played since Wednesday night.
“Give Utah credit, they’re a good basketball team,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “They had the luxury of coming in here fresh and we weren’t, and that was one of the big factors in this game.”
The Jazz led after a 15-2 run spanning the first and second quarters and built a 13-point lead in the third. Denver rallied to take an 81-80 lead on Barton’s three-point play but Utah carried a 91-88 lead into the fourth.
The Jazz took control with Jokic on the bench to start the final quarter. They scored the first 11 points of the period in a 15-0 run over the third and fourth quarters to lead 102-88.
“The 15 is cool but the zero is what really turned things around,” Gobert said. “Every single guy on the court was locked in defensively.”
Jokic’s jumper ended the Nuggets’ drought and they pulled to 103-93 but Mitchell sparked a 10-2 run that put it away.
“We couldn’t make shots and they were really good, especially in the fourth quarter,” Jokic said. “That’s where they won the game. We played really good but the last quarter was really, really bad for us.”
Jazz: Improved to 10-0 against the Northwest Division. … Gobert has recorded 15 straight double-doubles. … Bogdanovic is averaging 24 points in the three games against Denver this season.
Nuggets: G Austin Rivers missed his second straight game with a non-COVID illness, Malone said. … F JaMychal Green was remained in health and safety protocols. He has missed the last three games. … Denver had six turnovers Saturday night and six at halftime Sunday but just three in the second half.
The Nuggets’ bench had played well in their brief two-game winning streak but struggled Sunday night. The reserves were a combined minus-119 when they played while the starters were collectively a plus-4.
It forced Malone to go back to Jokic quicker than he wanted.
When (Jokic’s) been on the bench that unit has found a great rhythm, we kept that attack mindest and were able to score,” Malone said. “Tonight that wasn’t the case. It’s the worst feeling when you have to go back to your starters so quickly.”
Jazz: At the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.
Nuggets: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.