Utah dropped 1 1/2 games behind Denver for the final playoff spot in the West, suffering a 102-75 loss to the Nuggets on Sunday. The Jazz, trying to make the playoffs for a 21st consecutive year, fell to 0-3 against the Nuggets this season, losing any chance at earning the tiebreaker advantage.
“I thought we were fighting for a playoff spot,” said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, making his return after missing one game to be with his wife, who is undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.
“But after watching, I don’t think so.”
Utah forward Andrei Kirilenko was held to a season-low three points and no field goals. Carlos Arroyo led Utah with 13 points. Gordan Giricek added 11 and Maurice Williams had 10 for the Jazz, who had a three-game winning streak snapped.
The Jazz are 1-1 on their five-game road trip, which will also take them to Cleveland and Atlanta.
Toronto earned just its third victory in the last 16 games Sunday, thanks in large part to the play of Jalen Rose.
Rose, playing his first game in over a month due to a broken hand, scored 23 points and hit 7-of-8 shots in the fourth quarter as the Raptors beat Atlanta 101-84. Returning to action two weeks earlier than expected, Rose found his shooting touch despite wearing a protective wrap on his left hand.
“One whack here and it could be a big-time setback, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take,” said Rose, who also had seven assists and seven rebounds. “I just wanted to be a part of the battle. Obviously, when you drop 13 of 15 it’s must-win territory at this point of the season.”
Vince Carter scored 32 points for the Raptors, who are 10th in the Eastern Conference.
STANDINGS (through March 15): Jazz - 7th place, 12 GB, Midwest Division. Raptors - 6th place, 21 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Jazz - Kirilenko, 16.7 ppg; Kirilenko and Ostertag, 8.1 rpg; Arroyo, 5 apg. Raptors - Carter, 21.7 ppg and 4.9 apg; Marshall, 9.6 rpg.
SEASON SERIES: Jazz, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 26; Jazz, 97-94 (OT). At Salt Lake City, Kirilenko made a key three-point play and held Carter without a field goal in overtime.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Jazz - 11-22 on the road; Raptors - 16-17 at home.