SALT LAKE CITY — Left ankle soreness sidelined the Utah Jazz’s leading scorer Rodney Hood, but the rest of the gang stepped up in his absence.
The Utah Jazz made their national television debut this season on ESPN Tuesday night with a 106-77 home victory against the Denver Nuggets.
Utah has now won three straight games, as the team continues to find its identity without injured big man Rudy Gobert, who recovers from a bone bruise in his right knee.
“We didn’t talk about any one guy trying to do something different than they’re capable of doing,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder.
And that less is more approach benefited the Jazz.
Derrick Favors and Jonas Jerebko proved to be too much for Denver in the frontcourt. They dominated the paint — offensively and defensively.
Favors had a solid overall performance with 24 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three swats. Jerebko also tied a season-high with 15 points and eight rebounds on 6-for-10 shooting.
“We’re just continuing to build the chemistry,” Favors said. “Guys are finally getting used to playing with each other. Everybody’s moving the ball, playing their game, taking their shots, being aggressive, so I think just the chemistry part just comes down there.”
Utah shot 48.3 percent while holding Denver to 35.9 percent shooting and outscored the Nuggets 46-32 in the paint.
The Jazz bench, minus Hood, also stepped up, with Royce O’Neale, Alec Burks, Thabo Sefolosha, Raul Neto and Ekpe Udoh logging significant minutes to contribute 33 points.
“That was a really good defensive effort for us, especially in the second half,” Snyder said. “We were able to do a better job on the defensive glass. I’m just pleased to see that.
“I feel like some of the work that our guys are doing, I feel like our habits are getting better, and that’s a credit to the work that they’ve been doing and the focus that they’ve been giving those things.”
The Jazz trailed 49-48 at the break despite holding Denver to 40.5 percent shooting. Michigan State product Gary Harris posted 14 of his team-high 18 points in the first half while Kenneth Faried filled in for injured Nuggets star Paul Millsap (wrist surgery) with seven points and seven rebounds in the first half — including a tip-in at the buzzer off an offensive rebound. Faried flexed his muscles after the play, but he would only post four points with a single rebound in the second half.
After a pair of free throws on a clear path foul midway through the second quarter, Donovan Mitchell joined fellow Louisville guard Darrell “Dr. Dunkenstein” Griffith as the second Jazz rookie to score at least 300 points through the first 21 games.
Griffith accomplished his feat during the 1980-81 season, en route to winning Rookie of the Year, and now has his No. 35 jersey hanging in the rafters at the Vivint Arena after spending his entire career in Utah. Mitchell wasn’t aware of the mark but did end with 16 points and two steals on the night.
“I did not know that; that is pretty cool,” Mitchell said, smiling. “I’ll definitely have to talk to him about that.”
With the victory, Utah (10-11) continues to stay in the hunt for the playoff race in the eighth spot.
On Thursday, the Jazz will hit the road to face the Los Angeles Clippers at 8:30 p.m. in Staples Center. Clippers star Blake Griffin could miss the next two months with a sprained left MCL.
“We know the things that we need to do to be competitive, and that has to be our focus,” Snyder said. “If that means we win a couple, that’s the idea, but, if we’re playing the right way and trying to get better, and the win and loss column isn’t going our way, I don’t think you obsess about that.”