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Preview: Denver Nuggets play game 3 of home stand against the Utah Jazz

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Sunday night divisional game!

NBA: Utah Jazz at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Attention Denver, there is no Broncos game today, I repeat, there is no Broncos game today. What to do what to do? Luckily, there is one professional sports team playing in Denver tonight and that would be the Denver Nuggets northwest division member the Utah Jazz. A once heated rivalry, including a great seven game series in the 94 Western Conference Semifinals, is now simply a tale of two teams trying to find the right combination from a pool of young players, all talented, but still developing.

The Jazz were a popular pick for a low playoff seed when the season began and so far that’s right where they’ve fallen in the standings, currently sitting at .500. Similar to the Nuggets they have loaded up on young players such as point guard Dante Exum, center Rudy Gobert and power forward Trey Lyles, but also have youthful veterans like Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and George Hill. This combination has yet to render playoff success but they have been trending upward the past couple of years. Unfortunately for Utah, they also share a similar dilemma to the Nuggets: injuries. Favors and shooting guard Alec Burks are both out with injuries and Hill is a game time decision. These injuries have resulted in a three game losing streak so it will be interesting to see if the extra motivation to get a win will overcome tired legs of this second game of a back to back for Utah.

The Basics

Who: Utah Jazz (7-6) at Denver Nuggets (4-8)

When: 7:00 P.M. MST

Where: The Can, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KKSE AM 950 Altitude Radio

Rival blog: SLC Dunk

Position Nuggets Jazz Advantage
PG Emmanuel Mudiay George Hill Jazz
SG Will Barton Rodney Hood Even
SF Danilo Gallinari Gordon Hayward Even
PF Kenneth Faried Boris Diaw Nuggets
C Jusuf Nurkic Rudy Gobert Jazz
Bench Wilson Chandler, Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Juancho Hernangomez, Jameer Nelson, Alonzo Gee, Malik Beasley, Darrell Arthur, Mike Miller Trey Lyles, Joe Johnson, Joe Ingles, Jeff Whithey, Shelvin Mack, Joel Bolomboy, Raul Neto Even

Injured players: Darrell Arthur - probable (knee), Will Barton - questionable (ankle), Mike Miller - out (personal), Gary Harris - out (foot), George Hill - questionable (thumb), Derrick Favors - out (knee), Alec Burks - out (ankle).

Key match up: Danilo Gallinari vs Gordon Hayward

Gallo and Hayward are often compared to one another. They possess a similar style of game predicated on solid shooting and the ability to get past slower defenders for points in the paint or trips to the foul line. Gallo is the more talented of the two when it comes to getting to the free throw line (though his numbers there are down slightly in this young season) and is the more efficient scorer in general, though Hayward is the better defender of the two (neither are great). Most importantly, each guy is the straw that stirs his team’s drink and more often than not if they don’t perform well, the team doesn’t perform well. Look for these two to be matched up on each other for large portions of the night and the way this match up goes is likely the way the game will go as well.

Key thing to watch for: Wilson Chandler’s hot streak

Hayward will have his hands full on defense when Gallo isn’t out there as well. Pretty safe to say the Chandler has been the best Nuggets player for the past three games in a row, including a 28pt 11reb game against the Phoenix Suns which he followed up with a 25pt 10reb game against the Toronto Raptors. Chandler’s hot start to the season comes as no surprise to those who were paying close attention to the pre-season last year. I for one was incredibly excited about the potential of Chandler’s 2015-2016 season before a hip injury derailed it. Last year in pre-season he looked like a guy who finally had put everything together and understood exactly how to leverage the strengths of his game for success, particularly on offense. After a year of waiting it doesn’t appear that Chandler has forgotten that and now that he’s healthy he’s firing on all cylinders.

Opening thought: As close to a must win as you can get 12 games in

As I stated, Utah is coming off a three game losing streak so the Nuggets should expect them to come out early and try to punch the Nuggets in the mouth. However, this is the third game in four nights for the Jazz as well so one can only expect they will get tired quicker than the Denver who didn’t practice yesterday to enjoy a restful day off at home. The Nuggets haven’t had that killer instinct this season when facing a tired team in their building and their best win of the season was against a Boston Celtics team that has been under performing and also was missing their best player. While Utah isn’t exactly a marquee franchise in the NBA right now, they are a division opponent who very well could be gunning for the same playoff spot as the Nuggets late in the season. Picking up this win now could have implications in April when it comes to tie breakers, it also would guarantee the Nuggets won’t have a losing record on this 4 game home stand. Bottom line, Denver needs to get it done tonight.

UPDATE (6:38 PM): According to Chris Dempsey Will Barton will play tonight and will start.