Utah Jazz at Denver Nuggets Preview
Thursday Nights matchup between the Jazz and Nuggets will be a battle for sole possession of the #3 seed in the Western Conference. Both teams are tied for the 3rd seed with a record of 32-15. Utah is on a 2-game losing streak on the heels of two long win streaks. This game will be the second of a tough back to back against Western Conference foes. The Jazz had previously put together 10 and 4 game winning streaks with a loss sandwiched in between prior to these back to back losses. The Nuggets have been able to survive amongst various injuries to valuable players. They dropped their last game to Memphis 104-96 and have gone 6-4 over their last 10. Denver has been tough to beat at home this year. The Nuggets are 18-6 at Pepsi Center this season.
Time: 9:30 PM CST
Arena: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
Utah Jazz: None
Denver Nuggets: Paul Millsap (Out), Jamal Murray (Out), Mason Plumlee (Out), Bol Bol (Out)
Utah Jazz Starting Lineup
Utah will look to snap their 2-game losing streak against a fellow top of the west competitor. The Jazz are coming off a game Wednesday in which they lost 127-120 to the Spurs. Utah performed pretty well but couldn’t stop the Spurs mid-range and interior offensive game. One extreme positive for the Jazz was their ability to get to the line. Utah was able to shoot 46 free throws compared to their season average of 23. The downside was that they weren’t able to shoot efficiently from the line, going 32 for 46 (69%) from the charity stripe. Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell were a huge part of that aggressive approach shooting 18 and 10 free throws against the Spurs.
Mitchell and Gobert were the biggest contributors for Utah on Wednesday night as you would expect. Mitchell was to score 31 points including going 10 for 10 from the line. Gobert added 17 points with an outrageous 19 rebounds. This was Gobert’s 10th straight double-double and he is now averaging nearly 15 points and 15 rebounds on the year. Jordan Clarkson, who was acquired last month from Cleveland, gave the Jazz a boost off the bench with a fairly efficient 20 points.
Utah could look to continue to attack the rim like they did against the Spurs, but they may be better off trying to open up more looks from deep. They have the best 3-point percentage in the NBA and should focus on using that strength. The Jazz definitely will have the health advantage against the Nuggets and should look to capitalize.
Denver Nuggets Starting Lineup
Despite some injury troubles the Nuggets have stayed steady and been able to maintain a top 4 position in the Western Conference. Denver will once again be without big contributors in Millsap, Murray, and Plumlee. In the absence of these players, Denver has shortened their rotation to about 9 players. Jerami Grant has been a huge beneficiary of the extra opportunities.
In Denver’s 104-96 loss to Memphis on Tuesday Grant put up 21 points including 6 made 3-pointers. He filled up the stat sheet to go along with his scoring adding 4 rebounds, 4 assists, a couple steals, and a block. This is his second straight 20-point game and is averaging 19.2 points over his last 5-games. Grant was the Nuggets second-leading scorer behind only Jokic. Amongst these injuries, Nikola Jokic has become even more of a focal point offense. Jokic put up 25 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists on Tuesday. Despite the great numbers Jokic also turned the ball over 7 times.
Denver will look for Jokic, Grant, and Harris to take on the scoring load but they will need the supporting cast to step up. The Nuggets will look to get it going through Jokic on the interior but that may be a challenge due to Gobert and Utah’s stellar paint protection.
Key Player Matchups
Rudy Gobert vs Nikola Jokic
This is an obvious choice for the key matchup. These two bigs are the most important players to their respective teams. They are both dominant rebounders and It should be interesting to see who wins that battle. Jokic is more offensive-minded while Gobert is one of the best defenders in basketball so it should be fun to see them go at it.
Nikola Jokic is a great play even at his $10,200 price point on FanDuel. There is also a lot of value with both Donovan Mitchell and Jerami Grant. I expect both players to play major roles in Thursday’s game and both are relatively cheap. Mitchell is priced at $7,200 and Grant is only $6,000.
Bet on Matchup
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