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Photos courtesy Jeff Allred, Deseret NewsAs much as they wished they could, the Jazz didn't seem especially confident about being able to close out their first-round NBA playoff series with the Denver Nuggets with a Game 5 win Wednesday night.
No ridiculous declarations.
No press-stopping promises or cyberspace-clogging claims.
No braggadocio whatsoever.
And, sure enough, Utah fell 116-102 at the Pepsi Center, prompting the need for a Game 6 that's set for 8 p.m. Friday in EnergySolutions Arena.
"It's tough, man," Jazz power forward Carlos Boozer said. "I thought we had control of the game, for the most part, until that second half started.
"It seemed like they made every shot. We didn't get any stops. They hit jumpers, made a couple layups — and we was trying to come back there, but not enough." Denver — which broke open the game with a 36-29 third quarter in which it shot 72.2 percent from the field — got a 26-point, 11-rebound double-double from Carmelo Anthony, 21 points out of Chauncey Billups,18 from Kenyon Martin and 17 off the bench by J.R. Smith.
"They had about 22 points in about six minutes (to start the third)," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said. "That's the run we talked about not letting them have — you know, before the series started. When they have runs like that, it's hard to beat this team."
The Western Conference's No. 5 seed Jazz remain up in the best-of-seven series, but at 3-2 their path to the second-round suddenly seems considerably less certain.
If Game 6 doesn't end the series in Utah's favor, it comes back here to Denver for a decisive Game 7 on Sunday.
"We'll just have to wait for Friday," Williams said, "and get back to playing our basketball."
Utah was beat despite the best efforts of Williams, who with 34 points and 10 assists became the first player in NBA history to start a series with five games of at least 20 and 10 — breaking out of a pack tied at four comprised of Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and Kevin Johnson.
Boozer added 25 points and 16 rebounds for the Jazz, but on a night Kyle Korver came up blank with 0-for-6 field shooting their only other scorers in double figures were rookie Wesley Matthews with 15 and Paul Millsap with 16. "They just had way more contributions than we did," said small forward C.J. Miles, who scored nine. "They were balanced out tonight."
The Nuggets were — despite adversity.
The Jazz have battled injury issues all series — small forward Andrei Kirilenko (calf strain) hasn't played a postseason game yet, and center Mehmet Okur ruptured his Achilles tendon in Game 1.
Wednesday, though, was Denver's turn.
Starting center Nene sprained his left knee in the second quarter and didn't return, leaving the Nuggets — who say he'll be reevaluated today — terrifically thin up front.
Denver, though, wasn't about to fold.
The Jazz led 52-50 after an opening half in which Williams had 17 and Boozer 15. The Jazz actually were down six with two-and-a-half left minutes before the break, but — with Nene already out — Utah finished the half on a 12-4 run.
Williams scored eight of the 12, including two 3-pointers and a pair of free throws with 1.3 seconds remaining before intermission.
The Nuggets came out firing in the third quarter, though, and took an 86-81 lead into the fourth.
Denver led by as many as eight in the period, one in which Billups scored 12 on 4-for-5 shooting, Anthony had 11 while converting 5-of-7 and the Nuggets were 13-of-18 from the field.
"They came out aggressive," Miles said. "They scored like 20-some points in the first four minutes (of the third). Chauncey (Billups) was especially aggressive coming out in the second half. He just attacked guys."
"We didn't get no stops," Boozer said. "They did a good job of scoring. They had 22 points in like five minutes. It seemed like the scored every time down, and we were playing from behind the rest of the game."
For the record, it actually was 20 points in 4:55, 22 in 5:55 and 26 in 6:22. "Our defense kind of broke down a little bit," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said, "and they did a terrific job of what they were trying to do.
"They got the free-throw line.
For 42 total attempts, in fact — 17 more than Utah.
"I thought we were aggressive, too," Boozer said. "But they got the chance to shoot more free throws."
Utah never could take a lead in the fourth.
It did get to within two when Millsap hit a short turnaround to make it 94-92 with just under nine minutes to go, but the Nuggets answered with a 7-0 run.
"All we can do," Boozer said, "is look at the mistakes we made, go back and regroup in Salt Lake, and get a win on Friday."