Denver and Utah have each won 29 times this season ... the play of each team's point guard has been a significant reason. Both teams have had to deal with the injury bug ... but the fans don't want that excuse to be the Kool-Aid they are forced to chug. Both squads have had a full days rest ... and Friday night we'll find out on national TV who brought their best. I promise this is the last of the horrible rhyming and I mean it ... and no, I do not want a peanut.
The particulars ...
Denver: 29-20 (21-5 at home)
Streak: Won 1 and 6-4 in last 10 games.
Utah: 29-21 (12-12 on the road)
Streak: Lost 1 and 2-8 in last 10.
Denver: Al Harrington (left plantar fascia strain) is day-to-day.
Utah: Deron Williams (strained tendon in right wrist), Mehmet Okur (strained lower back) and Andrei Kirilenko (strained left ankle) are all day-to-day.
Season Series: Nuggets lead 1-0.
Opposition's Take: SLC Dunk
Game on ESPN Friday night
The good news, for you the reader, is that I will make good on my promise not to rhyme anymore in this post. And the bad news is that we'll have to wait until 8:30 p.m. MST for tipoff. And with that let's break this game down Good News / Bad News style ...
Good News: The Jazz might be without Nuggets killer Deron Williams as he's missed the past four games. I'll never root for a player to get injured and I like when the Nuggets take out teams that are at full strength, but if Williams isn't able to go Friday night I wont miss his killer three-pointers and contact drawing drives to the hoop. Williams is averaging 21.9 points and 9.4 assists this season and was selected as an all-star reserve Thursday evening (this will only be Williams' second all-star appearance).
Bad News: The Jazz are 2-2 in their last four games without Williams. A Jerry Sloan coached team isn't one that will just roll over with its best player out. The Jazz still have capable guys even though they are a little rudder-less without DWill.
Good News: The Jazz had a disappointing January going just 7-9 (including a six-game losing streak) to start 2011 and they lost their first game in February Wednesday night to the Houston Rockets in Utah by just one point (97-96).
Bad News: While the Nuggets did go 10-7 in January, they lost four-games to sub-.500 teams. With losses to the Clippers, Kings, 76ers and Nets (all on the road) the Nuggets were unable to put much distance between themselves and Jazz.
Good News: The Jazz were ice cold from three-point land in their last game. Utah shot just 1-11 (9%) from deep against the Rockets Wednesday night.
Bad News: The Nuggets love to sink down on defense and give their opponents wide open three-point shots. The Blazers were able to stay in the game against the Nuggets for three-quarters Wednesday night because of their hot shooting from the outside. The Blazers sunk nine three-pointers against Denver and too many times this season we've seen Arron Afflalo and other guards sinking down into the post offering help defense and leaving their man open. And too many times the shooter has made the Nuggets pay the price as making open threes is a lot easier than jacking up contested shots from downtown. Nic Batum and Wesley Matthews combined to shoot 7-11 from downtown against Denver on Wed. night. I don't want to see Raja Bell and C.J. Miles left alone on the perimeter.
Good News: The Jazz do not have an intimidating shot blocker on their roster. The Nuggets should look to get to the rim as much as possible against Utah. This game should be another Ty Lawson special as he can come in with the second-unit and dictate a quick pace for the Nuggets. Last season Lawson averaged 19 points and 5 assists against Utah in four games. In the first meeting between these two teams this season, Lawson scored 10 points and had 4 assists in 24 minutes. He knows the Jazz don't have a shot blocker and I hope he plays with his usual aggressive break-neck style.
Bad News: The Nuggets fall in love with three-point shooting. When the Nuggets get hot from deep it seems like the reason is because they are attacking the hoop, and that opens things up for the shooters as the game wears on. The drive-and-dish offense should be in order Friday night, but the Nuggets need to start with drives to the basket to open things up. Against the Blazers the Nuggets finished 8-20 from downtown (40%).
Good News: Former Nugget Antonio McDyess just tipped in a game-winner against the Lakers at Staples Center.
Bad News: The Spurs won. Too bad they both couldn't lose.
Good News: Nene is coming off a 9-13 shooting night for 22 points and 10 rebounds against Portland. Nene can eat up Al Jefferson's defense and should have a big night for the Nuggets. I don't think there is another center in the NBA that can finish at the rim as well as Nene can with both his left hand and his right hand. Lots of times it actually looks like he's more comfortable with his left hand around the hoop. His array of multiple post moves has been a joy to watch this season. Nene should be a candidate for the Most Improved Player.
Bad News: Nene practically refuses to take a lot of shot attempts. He's unselfish almost to a fault. The most shot attempts he's taken this season? Try 14 on December 16th against the San Antonio Spurs. If you compare that to Carmelo Anthony ... Melo has taken over 20 shots a game 19 times this season.
Good News: I have a good feeling about this game. The Nuggets play great at home and hopefully a Friday night crowd will bring the right kind of energy to the Pepsi Center.
Bad News: With the Nuggets, you never know what team you are going to get. Against Portland, the Nuggets sleptwalked though much of the first half and if they do that against Utah they could find themselves down and have to expend so much energy to catch up that by the time they get there they could be gassed and Utah could walk away with a win.
It's always fun when these to rivals get together and I hope Williams is able to play. A victory would be nice and it'd be even sweeter if the Jazz have their best player on the floor.
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