We did it folks, the 2020 NBA playoffs have officially arrived.
The Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz get the NBA started this morning with the second playoff game in the Orlando bubble. After going just 3-5 in their eight seeding games, the Nuggets are looking to start their postseason on a high note with a victory over Utah.
One of the Nuggets three victories in the bubble did come against the Jazz in a thrilling double-overtime victory. Nikola Jokic went for a triple-double and Jamal Murray played almost 40 minutes on a bad hamstring to help lead the Nuggets to victory.
It has been more of the same in the two teams other matchups this season. Even though Denver is 3-0 against Utah this season, the margin of victory only comes out to 11 points. One of those victories was the infamous “magnificent 7” game when the Nuggets only had seven healthy bodies, but still found a way to beat Utah, on the road, on the second night of a back-to-back.
Denver will be without two key players — at least to begin the series — in Will Barton and Gary Harris, who were both ruled out yesterday. The Nuggets will have to rely on Murray and Jokic to lead the way, along with star rookie Michael Porter Jr.
Who: Denver Nugets #3 seed (46-27) vs. Utah Jazz #6 seed (44-28)
When: 11:30 am MDT
How to watch: The game will be televised locally on Altitude (hopefully you have DirecTV) and nationally on ESPN. You can listen to the game on Altitude Sports Radio 92.5 FM
Where: The Bubble. Orlando, Florida
Rival Blog: SLC Dunk
Player availability: Will Barton III - out (right knee soreness), Gary Harris - out (right hip muscle strain), Vlatko Cancar - out (left foot fracture)
Matchup to watch: Jamal Murray vs Donovan Mitchell
This is going to be a fun matchup between two players that have a ton of respect for one another. The Jazz will be without Mike Conley for the foreseeable future after he left the bubble to be there for the birth of his son, which means it is likely Mitchell and Murray will be matched up against one another.
Mitchell was phenomenal in the Jazz’s overtime loss to the Nuggets, while Murray was equally as dominant. Both players have the ability to score at will and single handily carry their team to victory.
As fun as the matchup will be between Jokic and Rudy Gobert, I think this series comes down to the battle between Murray and Mitchell. Murray looks ready to take the next step and dominate in the playoffs, while Mitchell is a player who could cause some issues not just in game one, but throughout the series.
Keys to the game: Turnovers, 3-point defense, and the Nuggets ability to score from deep
The 3-point line is going to be the key in this series for both teams. Utah is one of the best 3-point scoring teams in the NBA and the Nuggets are arguably the worst at guarding it. Denver also struggles to score from distance at times, which could make it difficult to stay in the game if they are letting Utah score at will.
In order to slow down the Jazz’s ability to score from three, the Nuggets have to take care of the ball and not commit turnovers. Michael Malone mentions it during every media session: 3-point defense and not committing turnovers is key to the Nuggets success.