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Preview: Nuggets hope to even up series in Game 4 against Utah

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The series ain’t over til it’s over

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Utah Jazz Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

After edging out Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz in Game 1, the Denver Nuggets have subsequently been punched in the mouth in Games 2 and 3.

The only real positive takeaway so far is that the Nuggets are *only* down 2 to 1 in the series. Mathematically it’s not over but Denver is on thin ice. Games 2 and 3 were so comically bad that one more poor showing and not only will the ice break through on this season but the entire trajectory of this team could sink with it.

Game 4 tonight is a must-win. We know Utah is going to be prepared. Will the Nuggets fight back or roll over?

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (1-2) vs Utah Jazz (2-1)

When: 7:00 PM MDT

Where: The Bubble. Orlando, FL.

How to watch/listen: TNT/Altitude

Projected Lineups

Position Nuggets Jazz
Position Nuggets Jazz
PG Jamal Murray Mike Conley
SG Torrey Craig Donovan Mitchell
SF Jerami Grant Joe Ingles
PF Paul Millsap Royce O'Neal
C Nikola Jokic Rudy Gobert
Bench Michael Porter Jr., Monte Morris, Mason Plumlee, PJ Dozier Jordan Clarkson, Georges Niang, Juwan Morgan

Injury Report: Gary Harris - doubtful (hip)

Two Key Questions

Will Denver actually make meaningful adjustments? Three games in and aside from the switching up coverage on Donovan Mitchell between Games 1 and 2 (which could be argued was unwarranted and failed miserably), the Nuggets haven’t really made any major adjustments. Clearly this has not gone well and some sort of shake up is due, as Malone has been thoroughly outcoached by Quin Snyder in nearly every aspect of the series.

Jerami Grant started the second half of Game 3 in lieu of Michael Porter Jr. One would assume then that this would be how Malone starts Game 4. This would be a defensive-minded move as Porter has been played off the court as a constant target of the Jazz, but also has the risk of mucking up Denver’s offense even further. The Jazz already completely ignore Paul Millsap and Torrey Craig; is Grant good enough on offense to help solve those issues rather than MPJ? The -13 the starters had in the early minutes of 3Q on Friday say otherwise.

Plus, if Porter isn’t going to be let loose with the bench unit then what’s the point? He only played 1:43 in the second half on Friday. Denver’s only shot at climbing back into this thing is by outscoring Utah, not by hoping to out-defend them. If this is the only change made, it will not be enough.

It’s worth noting that Gary Harris has been upgraded to doubtful instead of out. While it’s still not likely he’ll play, boy would having an actual perimeter defender be a welcome boon for the Nuggets.

Which version of Nikola Jokic will we get?

It’s a little crazy that a guy averaging 24 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5 assists in the playoffs is being held to the fire like Nikola Jokic. Such is the burden of being an elite NBA talent. The fact is, as Jokic goes so do the Nuggets. If he plays like he’s the best center in the league and embraces the matchup with Rudy Gobert then the Nuggets will always have a chance. If he is going to pout and give flimsy efforts on both ends of the floor like he did in Game 3 then the Nuggets might as well book their charter back to Denver.

To be fair, Jokic is essentially being asked to do what he physically cannot in Denver’s drop pick and roll coverage. It’s frustrating but that is no excuse to let Gobert walk all over him without so much as a whimper.

Time for Jokic to show some pride or this series is over. Everyone else will follow suit.

Poll

Will the Nuggets be able to even the series with a Game 4 win?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Absolutely!
    (95 votes)
  • 20%
    Yes, but it won’t be pretty
    (111 votes)
  • 44%
    No way. This series is over
    (241 votes)
  • 16%
    It’s a coin flip
    (91 votes)
538 votes total Vote Now