SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Jazz slowed down the rest of the Denver Nuggets enough for the first three quarters that they could withstand Carmelo Anthony's surge in the fourth.
The Jazz held off the Nuggets 117-106 on Sunday night, surviving the late scare when Anthony scored 12 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter, as Utah took a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference playoffs.
"It looked like we were going to run out of gas before we finished the game, but I thought we ended up having a good finish," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said.
Denver was down by 19 in the fourth quarter before Anthony got the Nuggets within range to make the finish interesting. They got within seven points three times, but Utah stopped each run before it got any worse and the Jazz sealed the game by making 11 of 14 from the foul line in the final period.
Carlos Boozer had 31 points and 13 rebounds, Deron Williams added 24 points and 13 assists for the Jazz, who can close the series with a win Wednesday night at Denver in Game 5.
"We're putting ourselves in a good position to win the series," Williams said.
The Jazz controlled the first three quarters, seeming quicker and more determined than Denver while chasing down loose balls and firing up the fans with every hustle play. The frustrated Nuggets battled foul trouble, losing Chauncey Billups while trying to rally in the fourth quarter.
C.J. Miles scored 21 and Wesley Matthews added 18 points for Utah. The Jazz led by as much as 20 and had the Nuggets off balance until Anthony led a surge early in the fourth.
"The energy and intensity is not there at times," Anthony said. "We start out the game well and then for some odd reason, we turn around and we are down 10 or 11 points."
Anthony converted a three-point play, then hit a three-pointer to cut Utah's lead to 90-79, but he was called for his fifth foul with 8:45 left to play when he got tangled up with Williams while going for a rebound. Anthony pleaded to the officials while still on his back outside the lane, but there was no changing the call and he was carrying five fouls for the third straight game.
Anthony sat for a couple of minutes and the Nuggets were down 98-85 when he returned. Denver put together a few more runs that got it close enough for Jazz fans to get quiet and worry, but Utah was able to hang on.
Kenyon Martin and Chauncey Billups scored 14 apiece for the Nuggets. Nene and J.R. Smith both had 10.
Anthony and Billups were the only players for Denver to score in double figures in a loss in Game 3, so there was some improvement.
"I'm trying to do everything I can in my power to beat the Jazz, but at the end of the day I need some help," Anthony said. "I'm not sitting here pointing fingers at anybody, but as a unit we've got to do it together."
Boozer converted a three-point play to cap a 13-3 run and put Utah up 74-54 with 5:40 left in the third. Anthony got in a layup just before the buzzer to get Denver within 86-68 entering the fourth quarter, then hit three threes during the fourth to make it close down the stretch.
"You know they're going to make runs," Williams said. "They're a team that can score in bunches."
Williams had 11 points and six assists at halftime and led a 10-2 run in the second quarter after Denver had pulled within three. He converted a three-point play during the spurt, driving the length of the court and drawing a foul on a layup while the Nuggets scrambled to get back, then hit a three-pointer when Denver's defence failed again.
Nene bit hard on a head fake when Williams made a half step toward the basket, then Williams backed off behind the arc for a three-pointer that put the Jazz up 54-43 with 2:30 left in the second quarter.
NOTES: Denver opened the game on a 10-2 run. ... The only member of the Nuggets not booed loudly during introductions was acting coach Adrian Dantley, the former Jazz player whose No. 4 was retired by the team. ... After committing 10 turnovers in the second quarter, Utah had one in the third period.