Jazz-Nuggets Preview

The Associated Press

The Denver Nuggets have relied mainly on their potent offense, but coach Brian Shaw will be just as pleased if his team can grind out some more victories with solid defense.

Denver hopes to have Ty Lawson back as it seeks a fourth straight victory over the Utah Jazz in its return home from its longest trip of the season Friday night.

The Nuggets (13-8) entered Monday's contest against Washington averaging 104.0 points, but they shot 41.1 percent and committed 22 turnovers in a 75-74 win to conclude their six-game road trip at 4-2.

Though the offense struggled, Denver held the Wizards to 36.0 percent from the field and set a season best for points allowed. It entered giving up an average of 101.3.

''We didn't even get into the 80s (Monday),'' Shaw said. ''But just being able to execute down the stretch, make tough defensive stops when we needed to, I thought we did that, especially at the end of the game.''

Kenneth Faried had a late block and go-ahead dunk with 33 seconds remaining. Wilson Chandler scored 17 points and Nate Robinson added 16 off the bench.

Denver has scored fewer than 100 points in three of its last four, and the return of Lawson - the team's leading scorer at 19.3 points per game while also adding 8.0 assists - could provide a boost.

The point guard has sat out the last two with a hamstring injury, but Shaw said Lawson is feeling better and may be able to play Friday.

Faried had 15 points and 13 rebounds while Lawson had 17 points and 10 assists in Denver's 100-81 win over Utah on Nov. 11. The Nuggets have won the last three meetings with the Jazz, who are coming off the best performance of their disappointing start.

Utah (5-19) has the worst record in the league, but it ended a four-game skid with a 122-101 victory over Sacramento on Wednesday. Richard Jefferson scored 20 points while Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward added 17 apiece.

Favors and Marvin Williams each returned to the starting lineup in that contest. Favors missed the previous two with a sore lower back, and Williams sat out the last four with a sore right heel.

''We've lost a lot of close games this year, especially early in the season when we had as many as four players out,'' Hayward said. ''When we have our whole team here, it's a different story. This was our best game this season for sure.''

The Jazz shot 53.9 percent from the field and set a season high for points after entering the game averaging 92.1.

''We were a little crisper (on offense),'' coach Ty Corbin said. ''It always looks a lot better when the ball goes in the hole. Guys feed off that.''

Utah will have to contend with a tough Denver bench, which ranks among the league leaders at 44.7 points per game. Robinson is second on the team with an average of 11.0 points, and Shaw has been impressed lately with third-year forward Jordan Hamilton, who has totaled 21 points over his last two.

"He's a legitimate threat on the floor," Shaw told the team's official website. "I'm not surprised because he has the ability to shoot the ball and do what he's doing."

Hayward had 22 points and Favors added 21 and 13 rebounds in the first meeting with the Nuggets.

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