Saturday, April 20, 2024

Preview: Nuggets square up with surging Jazz

UTA vs DEN; the good, the bad, the ugly of the matchup - SLC DunkThe Denver Nuggets are looking to sustain their winning ways against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake tonight, which might be more difficult than it looks at first glance. The Utah Jazz have won 8 of their last 10 and are looking for their sixth straight win at home, a place they always play Denver tough. Utah is trying to stay on the path to respectability, Denver is fighting for home court in the West. Utah is back home after a three game road trip and neither team is on a back-to-back. It should be fun basketball!

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (26-12) vs Utah Jazz (18-20)

When: 8:00 PM MST

Where: Delta Center. Salt Lake City, UT

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 & Fubo TV). NBA League pass for those not in the Nuggets market. Altitude Radio 950AM. Say you’re with the halftime choir and you need to get in before your elder gets mad.

Rival blog:

Injury Report: Julian Strawther – out (knee), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee), Hunter Tyson – out (G-League), Julian Strawther – out (G-League); Utah is living clean as the air in Zion National Park and has a clear injury report.

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: transition basketball will play a key role

Utah is seventh in the NBA in assists, but also have the most turnovers in the league. Utah will move the ball but turn it over, while Denver is second in assists but best in turnovers. Both teams are middle-of-the-pack in transition scoring, but this is a game where Denver will need those quick hands in the passing lanes on defense and to run after every loose ball they grab. Utah has some long players in Walker Kessler and Lauri Markannen, but transition is not their strength and Denver’s wings – especially on the bench – excel against defenses that aren’t set. Denver hasn’t been a stellar rebounding team while Utah IS great on the boards, so Denver needs to make shots and run, run, run if they don’t want this to come down to the final minute.

The thing to remember: Playing in Utah sucks for Denver

Denver just doesn’t play well in general in Salt Lake. The Nuggets should have it much easier than many teams, being used to the altitude and without a hard travel schedule to get there, but the Jazz have won their last 5 in a row at home against the Nuggets and 14 of the last 15 (!!!) so this would be a cakewalk even without Utah’s recent improvement. If Denver gets the win it should count for two – this is one of their worst places to play across the league.

The thing to bet: Jokic triple-double (+165)

This is the part where I would say “Jazz + 6.5” if I was the kind of person who liked to bet the other squad. The only game Denver has won in Salt Lake since 2015 had a 3 point spread. The teams are all different but Denver loses plenty to weaker Jazz squads in Utah. It’s just something in their DNA. I don’t know what it is about SLC nightlife that causes them so many problems, but I expect the game to be within that 6 point margin.

But let’s go another way. Jokic has had a triple double in 4 of his last 7 games against the Jazz, and one of the other games he missed it on points. He knows he has to fight Kessler for boards, will get plenty of chances to score around the bucket, and the shooters around him have rested legs.  I don’t normally call triple-double, especially for only +165 odds but let’s have some fun.

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