Jazz extend homecourt dominance over Nuggets

Jordan Clarkson registered 27 points and nine assists off the bench and the Utah Jazz dismantled the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets from the outset while posting a 124-111 victory on Wednesday night at Salt Lake City.

Lauri Markkanen added 26 points and 12 rebounds as the Jazz won for the ninth time in their past 11 games. Utah has won its last three, all against elite teams, beginning with road victories over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday and the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.

Collin Sexton scored 22 points and John Collins added 15 for Utah, which led by as many as 25 points. The Jazz shot 55.4 percent from the field and knocked down 13 of 33 3-point attempts.

Nikola Jokic recorded 27 points on 8-of-9 shooting and collected 11 rebounds for Denver, which lost for just the fourth time in the past 16 games. Jamal Murray added 17 points, while Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope tallied 12 points apiece for the Nuggets.

Denver has lost six straight road games against the Jazz and 15 of their past 16.

The Nuggets connected on 45.7 percent of their attempts, including 13 of 33 from behind the arc.

Utah led by 18 at halftime and then started the third quarter with a 7-2 run to increase its lead to 78-55 with 9:51 left in the third quarter.

Denver scored 16 of the next 22 points to move within 84-71 on Murray’s basket with 5:27 left. The Nuggets then went nearly five minutes without a field goal as the Jazz went on a 15-4 burst and took a 99-75 lead on Kelly Olynyk’s 16-foot jumper with 55.1 seconds remaining.

Jokic drained a 3-pointer with 36.1 seconds left to halt the field-goal drought as Denver trailed 99-78 entering the final stanza.

But the Nuggets couldn’t make a move. When Sexton swished a 3-pointer to give the Jazz a 116-91 advantage with 5:58 left, Denver coach Michael Malone called timeout and removed his starting five, essentially waving the white flag on another tough night in Salt Lake City.

Utah set the tone by shooting 65 percent in the first quarter while taking a 35-24 lead. In the second quarter, Utah outscored Denver 19-7 to end the half with Sexton’s three-point play with 1.9 seconds left, making it 71-53 at the break. Clarkson scored 16 points in the half for the Jazz. Jokic had 15 for the Nuggets.