clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Preview: Denver Nuggets face tough task with a short roster against Utah Jazz

New, comments

Can the Nuggets do it again?

1994 Western Conference Semifinals Game 5: Denver Nuggets vs. Utah Jazz Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets are fresh off an absolute throttling of their division rival the Portland Trail Blazers. Their reward? Just a cool road back to back against another division rival. For the second time in two weeks the Nuggets will face one of the top teams in the NBA in their building less than twenty-four hours after finishing a game the previous night. This time that team is none other than Denver’s chief competition for the division title: the Utah Jazz...and they’re looking for revenge. On top of that, the Nuggets found time to trade three players in between Denver and Salt Lake making tonight’s game a very peculiar one.

Last week when Denver faced a similar scenario it was the Jazz on the front end of their back to back and then the vaunted Milwaukee Bucks on the back. Denver pulled off the unbelievable and won both of those games despite the schedule circumstances. So can they do it again? The Jazz played the Nuggets tough in the previous meeting, with Rudy Gobert leading the way. His fellow first time all star teammate Donovan Mitchell however mustered only four points. Now on their home court and now the well rested team, the Jazz and Mitchell are going to be looking to make a point in this contest.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (35-16) at Utah Jazz (32-17)

When: 8:00 PM MST

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless its the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up in SLC. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio.

Projected Matchups

Position Denver Nuggets Utah Jazz Advantage
Position Denver Nuggets Utah Jazz Advantage
PG Monte Morris Mike Conley Jazz
SG Torrey Craig Donovan Mitchell Jazz
SF Michael Porter Jr. Royce O'Neale Nuggets
PF Paul Millsap Joe Ingles Even
C Nikola Jokic Rudy Gobert Nuggets
Bench PJ Dozier, Keita Bates-Diop, Jerami Grant, Bol Bol, Mason Plumlee Emmanuel Mudiay, Jordan Clarkson, Georges Niang, Tony Bradley Even

Injured players: Michael Porter Jr. - day to day (ankle), Jerami Grant - day to day (ankle), Paul Millsap - out (knee), Mason Plumlee - out (cuboid).

Key matchup: Nikola Jokic vs Rudy Gobert

Denver Nuggets v Utah Jazz Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

Nikola Jokic and Rudy Gobert are without a doubt two of the four best centers in the league and that showed in their last matchup. Jokic went for twenty-eight points to go with ten assists and three steals while Gobert dropped twenty-one points to with eleven rebounds and three blocks. Round two should be every bit as good. For the Nuggets and Jokic, they’ll have to figure out how to slow down the pick and roll. Gobert had a ton of success against them as the roller last week.

Main thing to watch for: this is going to be a weird one

Denver traded three players (Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Jarred Vanderbilt) while having another one (Jerami Grant) go down to injury last night. Yes, they are going to get four players back (one who is out for the year though) in the deal but those guys won’t be ready in time for tonight’s game, rather they’ll most likely make their debuts in Phoenix on Saturday. So by my count that leaves the Nuggets with eight bodies if Michael Porter Jr. and Grant are a no go, potentially nine if they dare to take the cellophane wrap off of Bol Bol. They’re also extremely small. Jokic and Vlatko Cancar are the only players who will stand above 6’6” (not counting Bol) so exactly how the front court rotation will work is somewhat of a mystery as well. Expect this one to be a fast paced, small ball affair.

Opening thought: can they pull the rabbit out of the hat twice?

Ok so I was all ready to say there’s no doubting this team’s ability to win any game after what they did in Milwaukee last week, but that was before Denver traded half their bench. If ever there was a game to put up a complete dud, then tonight would be the night. The Nuggets mantra of “no excuses” will be tested tonight as they try to overcome opponent, schedule, depth and emotions. Yet, this is a pretty darn important game! If the Nuggets could somehow pull off another crazy victory it would put them in the driver’s seat when it comes to the tiebreaker with Utah and that has a good chance of coming into play at the end of the year. I have no idea what to expect.