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Preview: Denver Nuggets at Utah Jazz

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The surging Nuggets meet the slumping Jazz looking for a reversal in fortune from their first meeting, a 96-84 victory by Utah

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets face the Utah Jazz in a matchup of two teams hanging out on the fringe of the playoff race waiting to get healthy.  Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors are still their two leading scorers but they are missing Rudy Gobert fiercely.  In early November the Jazz came into Colorado and stifled Denver's offense but one of the main ingredients of Utah's defense, Gobert, will not play as he is still recovering from a knee injury and has no timetable for his return.  Here's an example of his value:

Denver may get Emmanuel Mudiay back for Friday's game, but what the condition of his ankle or his game might be is anyone's guess.  The Nuggets, winners of 5 of their last 6, just want him to fit back into what they are doing on offense and take better care of the ball.  If he can't do that, then he'll be riding the pine again at the end of the game.  The Nuggets have been able to sustain their effort for four quarters now that most of their players are available to them and are seeing better results against a slightly easier class of opponents.  They'll need to hold off a desperate Utah squad to continue their road winning streak, which at 3 games currently is their longest in two years.

The Basics:

Who: The Denver Nuggets (11-14) at the Utah Jazz (10-14)

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT

Where to Watch: Altitude TV

Enemy Blog: SLC Dunk


Utah Jazz
Denver Nuggets Advantage
PG Alec Burks Jameer Nelson Nuggets
SG Rodney Hood
Gary Harris Even
SF Gordon Hayward
Danilo Gallinari Even
PF Derrick Favors Kenneth Faried Even
C Jeff Withey Joffrey Lauvergne Even
Bench Trey BurkeTrevor Booker Chris Johnson,, Raul NetoAlec BurksTrey Lyles Darrell Arthur, Will BartonNikola JokicRandy FoyeJ.J. HicksonMike Miller

Even

Injured players: Wilson Chandler, hip (out), Jusuf Nurkic, knee (out),  Emmanuel Mudiay, ankle (questionable), Dante Exum, knee (out), Rudy Gobert, knee (out), Joe Ingles, questionable (oral surgery)

Two Things to Watch:

Whose backcourt will show up? Gallo vs. Hayward is the battle of the leading scorers, but it's the rest of the supporting cast that should determine this one.  The Jazz are young in the backcourt with Alec Burks acting as the elder statesman in his 5th year in the league.  Raul Neto is a rookie, Rodney Hood is in his second year and Trey Burke is just starting year three.  Jameer Nelson has more experience than every guard on Utah's roster combined.  That's both a blessing and a curse - young legs have an easier time taking on minutes, and Jameer's have to increase with Mudiay's injury.  Burks and Hood have been slumping the last few games while Gary Harris has come back from his concussion absence with a renewed focus on both offense and defense and Foye finally found his long-lost shooting touch in Denver's last victory.  The Jazz haven't been able to find any frontcourt pieces to help Favors carry the load, so holding down Utah's backcourt is the easiest recipe for success.

Will the Nuggets attack the paint? The Nuggets have scored 102 points in the paint in their last two games, which has also gotten them 52 free throws.  These Nuggets have been hitting their free throws as well (at least the non-Hickson/Faried members of the team) which has made their paint attack more dangerous recently.  Without Gobert around to alter shots, the only interior presence Utah has is Favors.  Withey has received few minutes and hasn't done much with them yet, and both men should be able to be neutralized by the shooting prowess and movement of Denver's Euro bigs which will prevent them from too much weakside help.  The rim should be open for attack; the Nuggets should take advantage and keep up the plan from the last couple of games.

Prediction: 98-90, Nuggets - who get their first win without scoring a hundred points.