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Preview: Denver Nuggets look to extend series lead vs Utah Jazz

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Utah Jazz v Denver Nuggets - Game One Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets won Game 1 of their first-round series with the Utah Jazz, and they’ll be looking to turn that into a 2-0 lead tonight in Orlando. It took them overtime to get the job done due to the explosion of Donovan Mitchell, and it was obvious that this is going to be a hotly contested series throughout. They’ll still have the advantage of no Mike Conley for Game 2, and they have capitalize on that.

Denver has “home-court” advantage for the next game, and they need to get on some runs of their own to get the virtual crowd and in-arena noise going in their favor. For Utah, they saw Mitchell explode for the third-most points ever in a playoff game, and he was the youngest player to do so since Michael Jordan scored 63 against the Boston Celtics at the age of 23.

Game 2 is going to make a huge difference. Only 21 teams have ever come back when down 2-0 in a seven-game series, and Denver needs to make sure to build a lead and keep them from being 22. The Jazz need to support Mitchell better because asking him to replicate that scoring total just isn’t a reasonable ask.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (46-27, 26-11 home) vs Utah Jazz (44-28, 21-16 away)

When: 2:00 p.m. MST

Where: The Bubble

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

Rival Blog: SLC Dunk

Expected Starting Lineups:

DAL: SG Donovan Mitchell, SG Joe Ingles, SF Royce O’Neal, PF Juwan Morgan, C Rudy Gobert

DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Torrey Craig, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Paul Millsap, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Gary Harris (Hip) Out, Will Barton (Knee) Out, Vlatko Cancar (Foot) Out, Mike Conley (Quarantine) Out

Three Things to Watch

Who’s guarding Mitchell?

Mitchell scored 57 points on 19-of-33 shooting including 6-of-15 from 3-point range. He was absolutely unconscious, and there were stretches in the game that he looked completely unguardable. That needs to change in Game 2. I expect him to regress some just because of how crazy his game was, but more needs to be done to slow him down. He’s far-and-away his team’s best offensive threat. If Denver allows him to get rolling early, it will be another long game.

Can Murray do it again?

It took him till the fourth quarter, but Murray absolutely exploded to close out the game. For the final few minutes of regulation, he was going shot for shot with Mitchell. He ultimately finished the game with 36 points on 13-of-20 shooting and 6-of-9 from 3-point range. He fully justified that big contract he received in the offseason, and Denver will need that again with Barton and Harris still on the shelf. The question is can he do it again?

Who can step up?

In Game 1, we saw Jerami Grant drop 19 points off the bench while Monte Morris poured in a respectable 14 on 6-of-9 shooting. With Michael Porter Jr. struggling for just 13 points on a cold shooting night, their offensive contributions could not be overstated. I think Porter can bounce back in Game 2, but they still need to find their scorers. Is it going to be Millsap or Craig’s big night? I don’t know, but it has to be someone.