"They had a lot more energy and pace than we did," coach Tyrone Corbin said.
Still, the Jazz wondered what might have happened if a curious play involving Hayward at the end of the third quarter had been called differently.
Trailing 80-72, Utah regained possession on a Denver turnover.
Derrick Favors fed Hayward, who attacked the basket and dunked despite heavy pressure from the Nuggets' Kenneth Faried.
Just as the Jazz thought they had pulled within six points, however, official Bennie Adams called Hayward for hanging on the rim.
The offensive interference ruling nullified the basket and gave the ball back to Denver, which used a 3-pointer by Andre Miller with one second left in the quarter to build an 83-72 lead.
The way the Nuggets dominated the fourth quarter, it's likely they would have won the game, even without the benefit of the Hayward call.
The Jazz, however, wish they would have gotten a chance to play from six points down instead of 11.
"I knew someone was going to come and try to block it," Hayward said. "I thought there was going to be some contact, and I thought there was. That's why I hung onto the rim. I didn't want to get undercut or anything."
As the loss dropped Utah to 17-18 this season, Corbin was clearly upset by the call.
"I thought it was big," he said. "Right there, it's a six-point ball game going into the fourth quarter. But instead of us getting a basket, they come down and score. ... That's a big play."
Had the call been explained to him?
"They said he held onto the rim," Corbin said. "I thought, if a guy hits you going to the basket, you have a right to brace yourself. And [Hayward] grabbed the rim so he wouldn't flip. But they didn't see it that way so ..."
Hayward didn't understand the ruling, either.
"I think, for whatever reason, [the official] thought me hanging on the rim caused the ball to go in," he said. "So I guess you have to live with that and move on to the next play."
After Miller's 3-pointer, Denver opened the fourth quarter with a dominating 19-6 run. Hayward, in fact, was the only Jazz player to score in the first seven minutes.
"You have to give them credit," he said. "They knocked down some shots, and we gave them way too many good looks in the paint. We let them get a rhythm going at the free-throw line as well. We just have to be better."
Paul Millsap led the Jazz with 15 points. Hayward finished with 13.
Utah's defense, however, was problematic.
The Nuggets shot 51.3 percent for the game, worked their way to the free-throw line 39 times and scored 61 points in the second half.
"I didn't think we had energy tonight," Corbin said. "We couldn't keep guys in front of us from any position. We just struggled. We have to get better. This wasn't one of our better performances."
Storylines Nuggets 110, Jazz 91
R Danilo Gallinari scores 26 points to lead Denver.
• The Nuggets break open the game with a 19-6 run in the fourth quarter.
• The Jazz allow 61 points in the second half.