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Preview: Nuggets look to clinch season series against the Utah Jazz

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With both teams shorthanded, Jokic vs Gobert will take center stage

Utah Jazz v Denver Nuggets Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Following a shellacking over Julius Randle and the New York Knicks on Wednesday, the shorthanded Nuggets next have eyes on the Utah Jazz. Denver will be in Salt Lake City for the only time this year (regular season at least); both prior meetings took place in the Mile High City, with Utah taking the first matchup on January 17th and the Nuggets winning a few weeks later.

This game had been circled on many calendars all season long, and for good reason: a prime time matchup between the two teams involved in perhaps the greatest first round series in recent memory, two star guards who can shoot lights out in Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray, a battle between the best center in the league and the best defensive player in the league, all at the end of the season with playoff implications on the line.

Alas, it is not quite meant to be. Murray of course is done for the year and both Mitchell and Mike Conley are likely out as well. This game won’t have the firepower it normally would have, but there is still plenty of talent on both sides. It might not be good enough for ESPN, but tonight will still be a great game.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (44-22) vs Utah Jazz (48-18)

When: 7:00 p.m. MST

Where: Vivint Arena

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV

Potential Lineups

Position Nuggets Jazz
Position Nuggets Jazz
PG Facu Campazzo Joe Ingles
SG Michael Porter Jr. Royce O'Neale
SF Aaron Gordon Bojan Bogdanovic
PF Paul Millsap Georges Niang
C Nikola Jokic Rudy Gobert
Bench Austin Rivers, JaMychal Green, Shaq Harrison, JaVale McGee Jordan Clarkson, Trent Forrest, Derrick Favors, Miye Oni

Injury Report: Jamal Murray, Monte Morris, Will Barton, PJ Dozier - out; Zeke Nnaji - questionable. Jazz TBD.

Three Things to Watch

Nikola Jokic vs. Rudy Gobert. This didn’t really need an introduction, did it? The frontrunner for MVP vs. the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year. Jokic dropped a career-high 47 points in the last meeting, and without Murray, Morris or Barton will still need to shoulder a higher offensive load. It will be interesting to see how Utah defends Jokic this time around - do they let him get what he wants or will they try and force other players to win the game for the Nuggets?

The Others. The Jazz are loaded with guys like Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Clarkson who can all shoot lights out. The Nuggets have Michael Porter Jr. If this turns into a firefight, it could be difficult for Denver unless MPJ has an amazing game and there is some offensive contribution from elsewhere, like Austin Rivers or Aaron Gordon. Jokic will get his own but against a team like Utah, the best team in the league even, he can’t do it alone.

Playoff Implications. Denver finds itself in a position where every day the standings shuffle around. In a year where the matchup will likely determine how far the Nuggets can go due to injury, Denver really needs a favorable outcome. The Nuggets can “control their destiny” and try to win as many games as they can in hopes of landing the 3 seed... but there’s still the chance that the Lakers will take number 6. A loss keeps Denver at 4 for the time being, but eyes must also be on the Portland/Lakers game, as the winner takes the 6 and loser falls to 7. Of course, there are still several games remaining in the season but we’re at the point where every win or loss definitely counts.