By Kareem Copeland, AP Sports Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Jazz were embarrassed in a 14-point loss to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, but exacted a little revenge Wednesday with the return of their starting point guard.
George Hill scored 22 points in his return from an eight-game absence and the Jazz snapped a four-game losing streak with their 108-83 victory.
Hill had tape and a protective pad covering the strained thumb on his shooting hand and the nine-year veteran showed no signs of rust.
“Felt pretty good,” Hill said. “Any time you can get back there and help the guys try to win a game is fine.
“My team did a great job of helping me get some easy ones where I’m just catching and shooting and playing my game.”
Rudy Gobert posted his eighth double-double of the season with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Gordon Hayward added 22 points and seven assists.
Rookie Jamal Murray led the Nuggets with 23 points off the bench. Kenneth Faried finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.
“Obviously having George back makes a difference,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “It’s hard not to improve on the effort we had the other night. (The Nuggets) got free throws, offensive rebounds and points in the paint, numbers that would have led the league in all categories.
“We were better. We’ve got a long way to go. You can see that with the inconsistency we had in the first half.”
The Jazz put away the game with a 17-3 run to start the third quarter to take a 70-50 lead, punctuated by Hill’s 3-pointer from the right corner. Utah shot 49.4 percent and the Nuggets struggled to just 31.5 percent.
Utah led just 53-47 at halftime after jumping out to a 19-3 lead to open the game. The Jazz started 6 of 8 on 3-pointers but then missed their next 10.
The Nuggets, a night after beating Chicago at home, climbed back into the game with a heavy dose of Faried and a 16-2 stretch to tie the game at 45.
“Most young teams forget why you have success,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said. “They get bored with success. We were winning basketball games because of how we played. Tonight, even though we are banged up, three games in four nights — all excuses. We just didn’t bring it.”
Nuggets: Danilo Gallinari missed his first game of the season with right knee soreness. … Mike Miller missed his fourth consecutive game due to personal reasons.
Jazz: Joe Johnson played despite dealing with an illness. … Boris Diaw had his best game as a Jazz player with 11 points, three rebounds and three assists.
Back on the court
Hill averaged 20.4 points and 4.9 assists in the first seven games of the season and fit in with the Jazz immediately. The team is 3-5 without him.
“He and I know and knew each other pretty well,” Snyder said. “So some of the conversation that we had, I’d like to think framed what the fit would be and I think that’s something he was truly excited about. When you have that fit, it generally has a way of accelerating a player’s comfort level.”
Malone explained how his offense emphasizes back-cuts, especially against teams like the Jazz.
“We have guys that are willing and capable playmakers,” Malone said. “… It’s something we really emphasize, whether it’s practice, shootaround, film sessions. The Utah Jazz shrink the floor. They collapse. When they do, sometimes they get caught ball-watching.
“So any time your man turns the head, you should be cutting to the basket. And if you don’t get it, you’re probably generating a wide open shot for a teammate behind you.”
“It was huge, a lot of guys were tired and banged up from all those games,” Faried said. “Banged up from last night’s game, it was a grind-it-out game. We were able to pull through, but a lot of knick-knack injuries that carried over to today and guys weren’t able to hit the shots that they usually are.”
Nuggets: Denver hosts Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. It will be the first meeting between the teams this season.
Jazz: Utah hosts the Hawks on Friday, facing Dwight Howard in an Atlanta jersey for the first time.