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Preview: Nuggets face division-leading Jazz in primetime

This is the type of game you circle on the schedule. The two teams have shared historical moments on the hardwood, and the Nuggets look to reclaim their status amongst the league against their division rival

Denver Nuggets v Utah Jazz Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz will battle tonight in their second matchup of the season. The previous game took place in late October and resulted in a 122-110 Jazz victory in Utah. Tonight, the Jazz travel to Denver in a nationally televised game. The Nuggets are not often seen on the national stage, so tonight provides them a great opportunity to display their talent.

In the last affair, the Jazz bench was a major factor in the outcome. Three of their bench pieces combined for 42 points while the Nuggets reserves combined for just 11. Superstars shine under the bright lights so Donovan Mitchell and Nikola Jokic will be the featured attraction tonight. The Nuggets held Mitchell in check during the last matchup as he shot 9-20 and 1-9 from three. It will be important for Denver to hinder his progress throughout the game because he is a microwave scorer and can silence the home faithful.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (18-17, 8-6 home) vs Utah Jazz (27-10, 11-3 away)

When: 8:00 PM MT

Where: Ball Arena

How to watch/listen: NBA League Pass, Altitude TV (If you’re lucky enough), or 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: SLC Dunk

Expected Starting Lineups:

UTAH: PG Mike Conley, SG Donovan Mitchell, SF Bojan Bogdanovic, PF Royce O’Neale, C Rudy Gobert

DEN: PG Facu Campazzo, SG Austin Rivers, SF Will Barton, PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Monte Morris (day to day), Austin Rivers (day to day), Vlatko Cancar (day-to-day), Markus Howard (out), Eric Paschall (out), Hassan Whiteside (day to day), Zeke Nnaji (out), Jeff Green (out)

Three Things to Watch

Jokic vs Gobert

This is always a fun matchup to watch. Many consider it a contest between the game’s best offensive big versus the game’s best defensive big. Although Gobert does own three Defensive Player of the Year awards, Jokic appears to own the matchup of late. In the last seven games versus the Jazz, Jokic is averaging 31 points per game including a massive 47-burger last year. In order to keep up with this great offensive bunch in Utah, Jokic must lead the offense and take advantage of Gobert as he did in the past.

Bench scoring

As I pointed out earlier, the Jazz bench destroyed Denver’s in the last matchup. In a 12 point loss, their bench outscored Denver’s by 31 points. The Nugget’s best offense threat, Bones Hyland, has a great opportunity in front of him tonight. It is his chance to show his value in the national spotlight, and his offensive explosions are often a key in Denver’s victories. On Monday, he scored 7 points on 3-9 shooting with only three three-point attempts in which he all missed. Bones is an electric player but so is Jordan Clarkson for Utah. Alongside Jokic and Gobert, this bench matchup might be the most intriguing to watch.

Continous offense

Statistically, the Utah Jazz have the best offense in the NBA right now. They score 116 points per contest and shoot the league’s highest field goal percentage at 47.7%. The Nugget defense is better at home but this Jazz team is a monster on the road. They score the most points per game on the road, they are tied for the most wins, and they hold their opponents to only 102.8 points per game away from Utah. Not only does the Nugget defense need to remain active but most importantly, their offense has to keep them in this game. If they continue these four to five minute scoring droughts, the Jazz will punish them and run the Nuggets out of their own arena. Jokic, Barton, Gordon, and Bones will need to fulfill their offensive responsibilities to keep pace with the league’s best offense.