Thanks to circumstances created by the coronavirus, I have been living with my in-laws since October. They are great people but have one major flaw: they live in Utah, and consequently are Jazz fans. For the most part his hasn’t been an issue, especially considering how the playoffs shook out. I’ve enjoyed always having a trump card when we talk basketball; any dig made towards the Nuggets is swiftly met by a photo of Nikola Jokic hitting the series winning shot over Rudy Gobert or any other sort of reminder that Denver made it to the Western Conference Finals while the Jazz blew a 3-1 lead.
That was last season, though, and as the Nuggets stumbled out of the gate this year I lost some leverage while Utah has cruised to the best record in the entire NBA. Not only are the Jazz on an 11 game win streak, but they beat Denver along the way and even won the last two games without Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors. This has made the past few weeks miserable for me as I get to hear my brother-in-law rave about Steve Kerr comparing the Jazz to the Warriors of three years ago or Kendrick Perkins publicly announce that Utah is a dark horse contender.
My solace is that it’s only January and that you want to be playing your best basketball in May, not now. Denver is pretty good at that. That said, it would be glorious if the Nuggets were the team to snap Utah’s win streak.
When: 1:30 PM MST
Where: Ball Arena, Denver CO
How to watch/listen: Altitude TV, NBA TV
|PG||Jamal Murray||Mike Conley|
|SG||Gary Harris||Joe Ingles|
|SF||Will Barton||Bojan Bogdanovic|
|PF||Paul Millsap||Royce O'Neal|
|C||Nikola Jokic||Rudy Gobert|
|Bench||Monte Morris, Michael Porter Jr., JaMychal Green||Jordan Clarkson, Juwan Morgan, Giorges Niang|
Injury Report: Jamal Murray - probable (shoulder), PJ Dozier - out (hamstring), Greg Whittington - out (knee); Donovan Mitchell - questionable (concussion), Derrick Favors - questionable (back)
Keys to the Game
Defend the 3-point Line, hit 3’s of your own. The Jazz were the best three-point shooting team last year and to no surprise they’re right at the top once again. During this win streak, they have been the best in the NBA at 41.9%, but what’s even scarier is they are also first in opposing three-point percentage, holding opponents to just 30.7% from deep. Meanwhile, the Nuggets allow opposing teams to shoot 37.2% from three. All of Utah’s core rotation except Gobert shoot over 38%, including Joe Ingles (45%) who was out in the Jan 17th matchup. If the Nuggets let Utah get hot from deep without reciprocating with threes of their own, it’s going to be a long afternoon.
Win the rebound battle. Utah has also been the best rebounding team in the league over the past 11 games. Rebounding wasn’t an issue in their first meeting as Denver held a 52-36 advantage, but the Nuggets also weren’t able to capitalize. That absolutely cannot happen again; Utah is the exact sort of team that will punish you in those scenarios.
Free MPJ. There’s no doubt Michael Porter Jr. is ready for a bigger role. Since his return, he’s been coming off the bench but still closing games except for on Friday in San Antonio when he was yanked so that Will Barton could play the 4. This was clearly a mistake by Malone as the Spurs simply pulled away for the win. I don’t care if Porter starts or not, but when he is on the floor typically the best course of action is to just give him the ball. I hope to see more of that today.