The Nuggets are about to embark on a five game road trip, four East coast contests and one in Sacramento (?!?), but before they go they have one more game at home. The Utah Jazz will be making their final regular season trip to Denver tonight (Jan. 15th) and then the Nuggets wont see them until they travel to Salt Lake City on March 23rd. How about one more win for the road?
The particulars ...
Denver: 8-4 (6-1 at home)
Streak: Won 2
Utah: 7-4 (1-3 on the road)
Streak: Won 1
Denver: Rudy Fernandez (right Achilles strain) is probable. DeMarre Carroll (left hamstring strain) no timetable for return.
Utah: Earl Watson (right knee bruise) game time decision.
Television: Altitude TV
Season Series: 1-0, Nuggets.
Opposition's Take: SLC Dunk
On the Nuggets current three game home-stand they hold a 2-1 record; with an unimpressive 1-1 effort over the Hornets and Nets and a big win Jan. 13th (117-104) over the Miami Heat. That Heat game showed just about everything a Nuggets fan could want. Three point shooting ... check. Inside muscle ... check. Tough defense ... check. Sharing the ball ... check. Turning up the pressure at the right times ... check. Putting a team away ... checkmate.
The best part about that Miami game - LeBron James and Company came into Denver on a day's rest. The same cannot be said for this Jazz squad. Utah played last night, in SLC, against the struggling New Jersey Nets (whom the Nuggets just whooped up on last week.) Utah won a laugher and the team has been enjoying a nice cushy schedule thus far.
Like the Nuggets, the Jazz play very well at home. This season Utah is 6-1 in the friendly confines of EnergySolutions Arena. Utah just finished up a three-game home-stand, find themselves in Denver tonight, and then quickly head home for a four-game stand. The Jazz, through 11 games, have played five road games and will have 11 home contests through Jan. 25th ... some brutal road trips must be in store.
But this one-game road trip must be an unsuccessful one, if you're a Nuggets fan. Since losing their first two games of the season (a back-to-back set), one to the Nuggets, the Jazz have gone 7-2. Some odd stats, the Jazz have only had the game's leading scorer twice, the leading rebounder four times, and leading assist man four times.
The Jazz have been playing a bit like the Nuggets, leaning on different players against different opponents. And their biggest move? Replacing second year big man Derrick Favors in the starting lineup with Paul Millsap. The undersized Millsap is averaging 14 points and 8 rebounds and can turn things on in a hurry. Against the Lakers on Jan. 11th, Millsap poured in a team-high 29 points. It'll be nice to see Nene defending Millsap and hopefully smothering his offense. And Nene flourished against Utah in the first meeting, as the Jazz don't have any fierce interior defense and that led to a 25 point performance from Nene on 10-13 shooting.
Another matchup I'd like to monitor, Al Jefferson vs. Timofey Mozgov. While the other "Big Al" Jefferson sure can score the ball, he put up 19 points on Denver in their first match-up on 8-14 shooting, but he played 30 minutes to Mozgov's 18 minutes. The Russian is coming off his best game of the season against Miami where he added 12 points on 6-10 shooting, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 1 steal. Moz's length gives him an edge of defense and hopefully as this season progresses he'll stay on the floor longer. Mozgov must avoid foul trouble and Karl must ride with the Russian longer. Jefferson will carve up smaller opponents with his array of post moves and Denver has the answer to keep him at bay.
Utah will have issues once again trying to keep Ty Lawson at bay and Danilo Gallinari likely, as well. Lawson and Gallo are emerging as the faces of this Nuggets team. Lawson has done an excellent job of controlling the pace of games and really shined against the Heat in that regard. Gallo is starting to find his shooting touch from the outside going 7-15 from three-point land on this current home stand.
It's a real chore trying to talk about all of the Denver players that could be keys to any game. I have yet to mention Rudy Fernandez, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Corey Brewer, or Andre Miller. Not to mention the games here-or-there where Chris Andersen or Kosta Koufos have been bright spots. The point is, the Nuggets are a good team and they should beat the Jazz this evening. Utah is coming in off a back-to-back George Karl and his players are starting to figure out how to play as a team.
Everyone could see how much the Nuggets wanted to beat the Heat. Karl shortened his bench, when the game was still a contest, to just nine players. Brewer was used in the Birdman energy role for a few minutes and the eight man rotation was the one we should expect to see in big games or as a playoff preview. The Nuggets were "up" for that Heat game, now they must show that they can get "up" for every game.
Nate_Timmons on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Nate_Timmons