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Preview: Nuggets travel to Salt Lake City seeking revenge against the Utah Jazz

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A battle of two teams with injured big men.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off three days rest and a nice win against Marc Gasol and the David Fitzdale firing Memphis Grizzlies, the Denver Nuggets begin a stretch of their schedule against teams that are struggling to stay afloat. The first game? A revenge matchup against the Utah Jazz.

After 12 games, Rudy Gobert went down with a knee injury while playing the Miami Heat and will likely be out for another two to four weeks. In most of the games without him, the Jazz have found their footing offensively, scoring more than 100 points in six of the eight games. Three players that have stepped up in his absence: Derrick Favors, Donovan Mitchell, and Rodney Hood.

This will be a difficult game for Denver, but not impossible. It’s the type of gut check game on the road that would separate the Nuggets from just being a low tier playoff team. After playing some bad combinations to begin the year, Michael Malone has ironed out the rotations which should lead to more success this time around. Denver collapsed in the fourth quarter last time they came to Salt Lake City, but they were in position to win that game the first time around. They should come out and play more aggressive throughout this contest in response to that.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (11-8) at Utah Jazz (9-11)

When: 8:00 pm MST

Where: Vivant Arena, Salt Lake City UT

How to Watch: ESPN!

Rival Blog: SLC Dunk

Projected Starters

PG: Jamal Murray vs Ricky Rubio

SG: Gary Harris vs Donovan Mitchell

SF: Wilson Chandler vs Joe Ingles

PF: Kenneth Faried vs Jonas Jerebko

C: Nikola Jokic vs Derrick Favors

Three things to watch for tonight:

Nikola Jokic vs Derrick Favors

Each of these centers figures to have a strong offensive game tonight. Jokic will be spacing the floor and directing traffic against a smaller Jazz team with Jonas Jerebko at power forward. He should play well in the flow of the offense while attacking Favors at opportune moments, potentially putting the Utah big man in foul trouble. For Favors, he and Rubio are a great pick and roll duo, especially when surrounded by quality spacing. Jokic’s biggest weakness as a defender is being forced to cover a lot of ground, and even though neither Rubio nor Favors are floor spacers themselves, Jokic will have to be perfect since he has less help.

Utah’s shooting at the wing and forward positions

Over the last eight games, all without Rudy Gobert, the Jazz wing players have shot well. Mitchell is shooting 37.5 percent from three on 6 attempts per game. Ingles is at 57.1 percent on 5.3 attempts. Hood is at 46.2 percent on 8.1 attempts. Jerebko is at 44.0 percent on 3.1 attempts. That’s a lot of perimeter shooting. All three perimeter starters are averaging 4 assists per game or more as well, so there is no “formula” to shutting down the attack other than staying engaged. Harris, Chandler, and Faried all struggle to stay attached to their assignments on the perimeter for this reason. I will call it right now, if the Jazz hit eight or more threes in the second half of this game, then the Nuggets will lose. Guaranteed.

Another primetime game, so let’s perform

Tonight’s game is on ESPN, and in the last two games on National TV, the Nuggets excelled, winning against the Oklahoma City Thunder and dominating the New Orleans Pelicans. The star power tonight is decidedly less than in the previous two contests, but it should be a good opportunity to see if Jokic can elevate his game. He and Faried have the best match-ups to succeed on the offensive end, and Will Barton will have to excel off the bench, even when going against Thabo Sefolosha.

If the Nuggets stay focused defensively and Jokic has a good game orchestrating the offense, this could be a win; however, don’t be caught up with the absence of Gobert. This Jazz team has been playing well of late.

Poll

Is this a win Nuggets fans?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    It sure is! Primetime Nuggz!
    (177 votes)
  • 29%
    Toss up.
    (93 votes)
  • 13%
    A loss against a good home team.
    (43 votes)
313 votes total Vote Now