Williams had 33 points and 14 assists while chalking up nearly 45 minutes to lead the Jazz to a 114-111 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night in Game 2 of their Western Conference first-round series.
“He took over from the beginning of the game, which is huge for us,” said Carlos Boozer(notes), who added 20 points and 15 rebounds as the injury-riddled Jazz tied the series before it shifts to Salt Lake City for Game 3 on Friday night.
Williams and Kyle Korver(notes) made two free throws each in the final 11 seconds to hold off the Nuggets, who had overcome a 14-point third-quarter deficit to take a 102-98 lead with 4 1/2 minutes left.
Utah was playing without two of its most experienced playoff performers in forward Andrei Kirilenko(notes) (calf), who is out for this series, and center Mehmet Okur(notes), who tore his left Achilles’ tendon in Game 1 and is done for the playoffs.
“We can’t just give up on the season just because we don’t have those guys out here,” Williams said.
Anthony made 14 of 15 free throws but was just 9 of 25 from the field and was whistled for four offensive fouls. He fouled out of a playoff game for the first time in his career.
Denver is 1-11 all-time when Anthony fouls out and he was whistled for his sixth foul with 25 seconds left and the Nuggets down by a point.
“Him not being in there the last 25 seconds was huge for us,” Boozer said.
“I knew I was close but it was only because he was hitting me,” Miles insisted. “He was trying to get the ball.”
Each of Denver’s other four starters finished with five fouls, and the Nuggets had 37 altogether.
“That’s just part of the game,” Nuggets acting coach Adrian Dantley said. “They went to the rim. Williams got 18 free throws, that’s part of the game. You have to adjust to the referees if they’re going to make close calls.”
“We had some bad calls down the stretch but you have to figure out a way to fight through that, play through that,” Nuggets center Johan Petro(notes) said. “We missed some easy shots, some lay-ups and we kind of felt it at the end. But we know what we have to do. We’ll get one over there. It’s playoff basketball.”
“I think we tried to get to him a little bit earlier,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “In the game before we let everybody go where they wanted to go. Sometimes you get tired of taking a butt kicking. You have to step up and fight back a little.”
Trailing by 12 points at halftime, the Nuggets floundered through the first 7 minutes of the second half, falling behind 76-62 on Boozer’s putback dunk before using a 14-0 run to tie it.
Williams ended a 5-minute scoring drought for Utah with two free throws, and the Jazz recovered to take an 88-82 lead into the fourth quarter thanks to Korver’s three jumpers in the final 90 seconds.
The Jazz shot 68 percent in the first half and took a 63-51 lead after closing the half on a 17-3 run that had Denver’s fans booing them through the tunnel almost as much as they jeered the officiating crew moments later.
Boozer had four baskets in the run, and Matthews swished a wide-open 3-pointer from the left corner as the crowd sat in stunned silence as the Jazz manhandled the Nuggets on both ends.
After Anthony’s big performance in the opener, the Jazz talked about being more physical with him in Game 2, although Dantley was skeptical they could do that effectively with young players Matthews and Miles: “They’re not Kirilenko. They’re not Matt Harpring(notes),” Dantley noted before tip-off.
On this night, they were equally effective.
NOTES: The Nuggets had won five straight over the Jazz at the Pepsi Center. … Both teams and six offensive boards and 26 defensive rebounds. … There were 67 personal fouls overall. Sloan had a technical and Anthony a flagrant foul.