The Denver Nuggets couldn’t ask for a better start to the season. They silenced the Los Angeles Lakers on opening night, out grinded the Memphis Grizzlies in Memphis and blew the doors off their first division opponent with a thirty-three point victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. Now on Monday they’ll face their next test which is their first game on the second night of a back to back. Once again it will be a division rival on the other side of the court with the Utah Jazz in town. After refusing to bottom out last year like everyone expected when they traded stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, the Jazz surprised everyone with a hot start to the season and ended up just three games short of a play-in bid. They added athletic forward John Collins in the offseason and look to build on the success they had with Finnish sharpshooter Lauri Markannen, young center Walker Kessler and scoring guard Jordan Clarkson. If Utah wants to slow Denver’s roll it’ll be a tall order. However, getting the champs on the second game of a back to back where arguably the home Nuggets are more susceptible to being fatigued by the altitude given they’ve been at lower altitudes for most of the week is about as good of a dice roll as the Jazz could ask for.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (3-0) vs Utah Jazz (1-2)

When: 7:00 PM MDT

Where: The Can. Denver, CO.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy…unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type. Altitude TV where available (Altitude TV is available on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream and Fubo TV). NBA League Pass for non Nuggets market viewers. Claim to be part of the Ball Arena grounds crew and say you left behind your bag of snow melt from yesterday (disclaimer: don’t actually do this).

Rival blog: SLC Dunk

The Matchup

Injury report: Jay Huff – questionable (ribs), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee); Ochai Agbaji – questionable (knee).

The Three Things

The thing to watch: frontcourt vs frontcourt

Dec 10, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler (24) blocks the shot of Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) in the second half at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Jazz are one of few teams in the NBA that can actually matchup size wise with Denver’s bigs. Kessler is a strong defensive big who won’t get bodied out of the way by Jokic, Collins is a fast and athletic power forward to match with Aaron Gordon. Markannen is one of the only small forwards in the league who is actually taller than Michael Porter Jr. Now, Markannen is arguably out of position as a small forward, Collins isn’t the two-way player that Gordon is and Kessler is not the best basketball player on the planet so Denver still very much can have the advantage. They should win the backcourt matchup unless Clarkson gets really hot (which he’s done to Denver a time or two before) which means for Utah to win it they’ll have to win the matchup down low with the bigs.

The thing to remember: A bit of uncharted territory with Utah’s roster

Once a team built behind the dynamic scoring of Mitchell and the defensive monster Gobert, it was Jokic and Jamal Murray who ultimately proved Utah’s duo wasn’t good enough in the 2020 bubble and probably set the wheels in motion for the Jazz to start over. That rebuild is arguably still happening right now and the amount of roster turnover in Utah over the past fourteen months makes it difficult to predict this game. Even as short ago as last season things looked entirely different. On opening night in 2022 the Jazz stomped Denver by 21 points. Two of Utah’s starters in that game (Mike Conley and Jarred Vanderbilt) now play for other teams as do two key reserves (Rudy Gay and Malik Beasley). It’s a similar story for the next two games they played last season (except it was Denver doing the stomping) and the final contest was game 81 of the season which was entirely meaningless for both teams and featured heavy minutes for reserves. Tonight we get our first look at what this new Jazz core, which seems to be built with beating Denver in mind, can do against the Nuggets.

The thing to bet: Michael Porter Jr. over 7.5 rebs (+110)

I actually think MPJ might not be such a dominant force on the boards in this game as he has been in the past three because of the aforementioned Utah size. Still, Mike is living on the glass early this season and has nine or more rebounds in every game. Utah also doesn’t have a ton of depth in their frontcourt after their starters, at least not in terms of someone who can hang with 6’10” Porter on the boards. Coach Michael Malone rode MPJ’s hot hand against Oklahoma City and staggered him with the bench unit some. If something like that happens again then I think it’s easy to see him hitting the over on 7.5 rebounds. Plus money as well which never hurts.