For the first time this season this Nuggets team appears to be firing on all cylinders, especially after a solid home victory against the Chicago Bulls last night. Denver is winners of three of its last four and is now on its first winning streak of the season and will be looking to continue this success on the road tonight in Utah. The Nuggets defeated the Jazz pretty handily on Sunday, but this will not be an easy game. Not only will Denver be on the road in the second night of a back to back, but the Nuggets have failed to win in Salt Lake City since December 2014.
While the Nuggets are riding high at the moment, the Jazz have found itself on a four game losing streak. Utah has been riddled with injuries this season, and is especially missing newly acquired point guard George Hill who remains questionable with a thumb injury. Still, Utah boasts scoring threats in Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood and one of the best defensive centers in the league, Rudy Gobert. The Jazz might be struggling, but in the hostile Vivint Smart Home Arena environment no win is ever easy.
Who: Denver Nuggets (6-8) at Utah Jazz (7-8)
When: 7:00 PM MST
Where: Vivint SmartHome Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
How to watch: Altitude 2
Rival Blog: SLC Dunk
|PG||Emmanuel Mudiay||Dante Exum||Even|
|SG||Will Barton||Rodney Hood||Even|
|SF||Danilo Gallinari||Gordon Hayward||Even|
|PF||Kenneth Faried||Trey Lyles||Nuggets|
|C||Jusuf Nurkic||Rudy Gobert||Jazz|
|Key bench guys||Wilson Chandler, Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, Jameer Nelson||Joe Johnson, Jeff Withey, Joe Ingles, Shelvin Mack||Nuggets|
Injury Report: Gary Harris - out (foot); George Hill - questionable (thumb); Derrick Favors - questionable (knee); Alec Burks - out (ankle)
Key match up: Jusuf Nurkic vs. Rudy Gobert
In years' past when the Nuggets and Jazz have played, Denver has always shied away from the paint and Gobert's presence, letting the big Frenchman have his way inside. On Sunday night that was not so and the Nuggets' aggressiveness paid off big, in large part thanks to Jusuf Nurkic. Not only did Nurkic attack the post, he essentially removed Gobert for a large part of the game by getting him into foul trouble early on, forcing the Jazz to play Jeff Withey on Nurkic and Jokic who feasted on the less experienced center.
Gobert did go on an impressive run in the second half but the game was already out of reach by then. If the Nuggets big men (and other players for that matter) take the same strategy tonight, get Gobert to bite on fouls and frustrate him like on Sunday, Denver's chances of winning this game go up exponentially.
Key thing to watch for: Jamal Murray's hot hand
Jamal Murray, or Steph Curry? Murray has really broken out these past two games and is quickly making a name for himself in the NBA. On Sunday against Utah the rookie put up 18 points on 75% shooting, including 75% from deep. Then in a clear attempt to outdo himself, last night Murray torched Chicago for a career high 24 points on 75% shooting from three and scored 15 points in the second quarter alone to keep Denver in the game. Not only has he been downright sizzling from the three, but he's been scoring in about every way imaginable and will make things difficult for Michael Malone's rotations once Gary Harris comes back. But for now, let's just enjoy the ride and watch this kid light it up. How many points will he put up against Utah again tonight?
Final Thought: Nuggets can make up a lot of lost ground this week
Before the Nuggets returned to Pepsi Center for this last home stand the team was 3-7 and nearing the very bottom of the Western Conference. The team was facing a ton of issues and to be frank, things weren't looking good. But at the same time, all the other teams that Denver will need to beat out in order to make the playoffs have had some issues of their own. Utah has battled injuries, Portland is regressing, Oklahoma City lacks a credible threat outside of Westbrook and Minnesota, Dallas and Phoenix are awful.
As of this morning Denver sits in the 10th spot in the West but remarkably is only three games behind the fourth-seeded Grizzlies, and one game behind Utah. Denver's next three games are against Utah, Oklahoma City and Phoenix. A win over the Jazz would put the Nuggets up a spot, and taking one of two this weekend would place Denver right in the thicket of the playoff race. The season is far from over and this team is looking good. Let's hope this momentum keeps up!