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Denver • Paul Millsap doesn't just look sleeker, more powerful and aggressive. He's feeling that way, too.
After fighting off right quadriceps tendinitis during the start of the 2011-12 season and coming off the bench for the Jazz's first two games, Millsap had reclaimed his position near the top of Utah's hierarchy heading into the contest Sunday against Denver.
"I have my legs back," Millsap said. "I started the season with a few knickknacks and really couldn't get my legs under me. All that took a little toll. Now, I'm feeling good."
He continued his rise during Utah's strong 106-96 win against the Nuggets, pouring in a game-high 26 points and tying his game-high 12 rebounds.
Sixteen of Millsap's points came during the fourth quarter.
"Millsap had a 10- to 12-minute stretch where he was the best player on the court," Nuggets coach George Karl said.
During Millsap's previous three games, the sixth-year power forward was averaging 22 points, eight rebounds and 2.3 steals while shooting 61.7 percent from the field.
All the work Millsap put in during the NBA lockout is showing up in his streamlined attack, which features sharper ballhandling and a smoother stroke from long range. The assets have been displayed a few games later than he'd hoped. But it's right on schedule with the Jazz's rise, which has seen Utah win seven of eight.
"Early, I wasn't able to do all the things I'm doing now," Millsap said. "I'm a high-energy guy. I want to play with that enthusiasm. When you're limited, you're really not much of a threat out there. I'm glad I'm at a full strength so I can do all the things I'm capable of doing."
Karl once doubted the undersized Millsap could make it in the NBA.
"He is really impressive," Karl said. "I think he is the key to the Jazz."
Jazz forward Josh Howard (strained left quadriceps) didn't dress against the Nuggets and was a late scratch from the lineup. He said after the game he will try to play Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers. … Forward Derrick Favors (sprained right ankle) left the game late during the second quarter and didn't return. He wore a protective boot after the contest but said he'll definitely play Tuesday.