DENVER (AP) Trey Lyles was caught off guard by an unexpected start. He was hard to guard the rest of the afternoon.
Lyles scored a career-high 22 points, Gordon Hayward helped fuel a 24-0 third-quarter run and the Utah Jazz maintained their slim lead for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference with a 100-84 win over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.
All five starters reached double figures for the Jazz (40-40), who have a one-game cushion over Houston (39-41) with two games remaining. The Rockets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 130-110 earlier Sunday.
No time for Utah to celebrate this one, though. The Jazz have another big game Monday against Dallas (41-39) - a team currently seventh in the playoff chase.
''I don't have to talk a whole lot about it,'' Snyder said of the importance. ''It speaks for itself.''
Lyles didn't find out he was starting until moments before the opening tip, when Derrick Favors was a late scratch because of right knee soreness. All Lyles did was provide an offensive spark by hitting four 3-pointers.
It wasn't a shock to coach Quin Snyder, who's come to expect performances like this from players such as Lyles.
''That's the thing about this team. It's been happening all year,'' Snyder said. ''Individually, we've got guys that have depth of character. And then when you put them together collectively, they've been pulling together all year. It was good to see.''
Hayward scored 10 of his 22 points in a pivotal third quarter that saw Utah turn the game into a rout.
Nikola Jokic and Emmanuel Mudiay each had 19 points as the Nuggets finished 0-4 against the Jazz this season. They averaged just 84.3 points against a stingy Utah defense.
The game changed dramatically after halftime. The Jazz were trailing 62-58 with 6:56 remaining in the third, but they held Denver scoreless for the rest of the quarter to take an 82-62 lead.
In all, Denver went 8:28 between baskets, a streak that was halted on a dunk from Will Barton moments into the final quarter. By then, Utah was well on its way to snapping a two-game skid.
''For our guys to be able to focus at that moment for that period of time, was really good,'' Snyder said. ''It reflects a lot of the work they've done, that there's a consistency there. We were talking about every possession - every possession take it one at a time and keep trying to get stops. That was the focus and our guys executed it.''
Nuggets coach Michael Malone wasn't exactly pleased with the offensive output in the final home game of the season.
''You can't let a team go on a run where you don't get stops, you don't score, don't execute,'' said Malone, whose team finished 18-23 at the Pepsi Center. ''That one stretch to close out the third and the fact that we gave them (18) second-chance points and they outrebounded us by eight was the story of the game.''
Jazz: Alec Burks played in his second game after missing 50 games with a fractured left fibula. He was scoreless in nearly 14 minutes. ... Utah's reserves had just 13 points.
Nuggets: A dinged-up Kenneth Faried didn't play for a second straight game. ... F Darrell Arthur was back after missing the game against the Spurs as he tended to a family matter. He finished with five points. ... Jokic had 11 rebounds.
Rudy Gobert finished with 16 points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots. That came after a frustrating performance in an OT loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.
''One of the things we love about Rudy is he's competitive,'' Snyder said. ''Very seldom does he not bounce back when there's something he feels he can do better. You saw that tonight.''
The Nuggets had extra incentive to beat the Jazz in an effort to bolster Houston's playoff chances. If the Rockets earn a playoff spot, the Nuggets receive their first-round pick as part of the Ty Lawson trade. Should Houston miss the postseason, the compensation turns into a second-round pick next year.
Jazz: Host Dallas on Monday.
Nuggets: Visit Portland on Wednesday.