Nene scores career-high 28 points as Nuggets hand Jazz third straight loss

DENVER -- Chauncey Billups can't fathom having a game like Nene did Sunday night.

Nene tied a career high with 28 points and sank every one of his dazzling dozen shots in Denver's 117-97 rout of the Utah Jazz.

"I don't think I'll ever go 12-for-12 because I'm going to shoot until I miss," Billups said.

Nene's strategy?

"If I make, I keep going," he said. "If I miss, I just pass the ball."

Coach George Karl wasn't even aware of just how special a night his big Brazilian forward was having when he had him take a seat with more than six minutes left and the Nuggets comfortably ahead -- not that he would have sent his big man back in for individual glory.

Nene wasn't worried about his stats or even perfection, for that matter.

"When I play, I don't care too much. I just try to finish hard and I'm surprised after the game to be 12-for-12, whatever, record. I give all the glory to God," Nene said after tying the franchise mark for shooting percentage.

Bobby Jones also went 12-for-12 for the Nuggets against Golden State back on March 15, 1978. Nene is the third player since the team joined the NBA in 1976-77 to make 10 or more shots without a miss. Kenyon Martin made all 10 of his shots against Chicago on Nov. 23 of this season.

Nene said he wasn't bummed at all about not staying in to break his career-high points total that he set against Sacramento on April 4, 2007.

"I just worry about helping the team and giving my best," he said with a big grin.

Karl was worried going in that Denver's five-day layoff might result in rust, but J.R. Smith quickly put those concerns to rest.

Smith scored 13 of his 22 points in the first quarter, setting the tone for Denver's rare rout of Utah, which fell 4½ games behind the first-place Nuggets in the Northwest Division with its third straight loss and second in 24 hours.

The Jazz have been without star Carlos Boozer most of the season and he's not expected back from knee surgery for a couple more weeks. By that time, the Nuggets might have too big of a cushion for the Jazz to have much hope of defending their division title.

Billups added 22 points and Linas Kleiza came up with 18 off the bench for the Nuggets, who had lost 10 of their previous 13 against Utah.

The Jazz, 1-10 in the second game of back-to-back sets this season, didn't get to Denver until just before noon Sunday because of issues with their charter jet that forced them to stay in Salt Lake City after a 102-97 loss to Cleveland on Saturday night.

"We were definitely the more-rested, more-energized team," Karl said. "Once we fought through the push-and-grab-and-foul game that was going on for about 20 minutes, it finally broke open and fell our way and Nene was very special, J.R. was pretty good offensively."

The Nuggets quickly built a double-digit lead on the Jazz, thanks to Smith.

The only thing that cooled Smith was a bad foul call that forced him to the bench with 13 points, two fouls and 4:36 left in the first quarter. Smith was whistled for a foul on Paul Millsap even though he slapped the ball, not Millsap.

Smith, who dished out a half-dozen assists, returned in the second quarter and had 16 points at halftime as the Nuggets took a 60-51 lead into the locker room, an advantage they stretched to 20 points in the third quarter.

Smith's night was over with 7:11 left and the Nuggets ahead 100-81, and less than a minute later, Nene was sent to the sideline, too.

Ronnie Brewer led the Jazz with 16 points, and Deron Williams scored 15, but he was hounded by Dahntay Jones, who returned from a separated shoulder that sidelined him for a game.

"There wasn't much defensive effort," Williams said. "They had a lot of easy layups, dunks. They got their confidence going and then the second-quarter 3s started raining down for them."

That's the difference between rest and rust.

"They've been off since Tuesday," Williams said. "We knew they were going to have a lot of energy. We just couldn't match it tonight."

Game notes
Karl thinks Billups will be added to the All-Star team, but is not as confident that Carmelo Anthony will get the nod because he's missed eight games with a broken right hand. 'Melo hopes to return Friday night against Charlotte. ... Jazz F Andrei Kirilenko (ankle) missed his third straight game.