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Burks' career-high 34 points lifts Jazz to win over Nuggets

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The Canadian Press
1/13/2014 11:56:18 PM
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SALT LAKE CITY -- Alec Burks didn't feel like he needed to be Gordon Hayward. He just needed to be his best twisting, turning acrobatic self.

"I didn't need to be anybody else, I just needed to be myself and be aggressive," said Burks, who scored a career-high 34 points to spark the Utah Jazz to a 118-103 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.

Derrick Favors added 19 points and 15 rebounds while Trey Burke had 18 points for the Jazz, who won their fifth game in the last six home starts.

Burks was filling in for Gordon Hayward, who sat out his second consecutive game after scoring a career-high 37 points -- including the last 17 -- in a win over Oklahoma City last Tuesday. The swingman strained his left hip flexor late in the game and his absence was apparent as Cleveland snapped Utah's four-game home winning streak on Friday, 113-102.

But Burks made his presence felt from the start and had 17 in the first half to help the Jazz run out to a 67-53 lead, the highest first-half total for the Jazz this season.

"I was just trying to get to the rim and put some pressure on them," Burks said.

His teammates noticed his determination to get into the lane and that led to other open shots.

"He came out and established himself from the get-go. He put a ton of pressure on their defence to collapse and try and stop him from scoring," Marvin Williams said.

Ty Lawson had 23 points and J.J. Hickson scored 21 but the Nuggets trailed by as many as 24 points as they saw their improbable five-game winning streak come to an end.

Burks wowed the crowd with a number of athletic drives to the hoop and several of his forays ended in a basket and a free throw. The Nuggets threw a number of defenders at the slippery Jazz guard but none could stay in front of him.

"Some of the shots, I don't know how they went in. Alec said he missed a bunch of layups and I told him, 'You made a bunch of crazy layups."' Richard Jefferson said. "His ability to finish in traffic and his size and the way he can handle the ball is unique."

The third-year guard helped the Jazz score a season-high 64 points in the paint and kept his defenders on their heels.

"With more opportunity, I am a wiser player now," Burks said. "I know now what everybody's going to do now, how they are going to play defence against me."

It was Burks' most potent offensive performance since he posted his previous career-best of 31 points in Miami on Dec. 16. But that was in a blowout loss.

Burks made 13 of his 19 field goal attempts as the Jazz shot nearly 56 per cent against the Nuggets, who seemed to be one step behind the Utah offence all night.

"Defence for the most part tonight was non-existent," Denver coach Brian Shaw said.

Favours' powerful dunk sparked a 10-2 surge to push the advantage to 77-57, the second time in three games the Jazz have led by more than 20 after achieving that wide margin only once the rest of the season.

The lead reached 89-65 after Jefferson made a 3-pointer midway through the third quarter. The 118 points Utah tallied was the second-most the Jazz have scored all season, just under the 122 they scored in a runaway win in Sacramento on Dec. 11.

"They had a lot of solutions," said Evan Fournier, who had 16 points for Denver.

The Nuggets got a taste of their own medicine after they averaged 119.6 points a contest during their five-game win streak. But the energy and defence and accuracy that aided the Nuggets' roll were absent against Utah.

"We made a ton of mistakes tonight, letting the ball get to the middle and allowing them to penetrate our paint," Shaw said.

The Nuggets were 21 of 34 from the line and several misses prevented them from cutting the lead to single digits in the fourth quarter.

Notes: In addition to long-term injuries to Danilo Gallinari (left knee) and JaVale McGee (left leg), the Nuggets were without reserve forwards Darrell Arthur (left groin) and Anthony Randolph (left ankle). Fellow reserve Wilson Chandler has been battling a left hip strain and missed Denver's previous two games but scored 12 points in his return. ... Hayward, who leads Utah in scoring at 17.1 points per game, is day to day and planned to accompany the team on its upcoming three-game road trip starting Wednesday in San Antonio.

Alec Burks (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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