Game 76 Preview: Jazz vs. Nuggets

Not even Professor Andre Miller, Ph.D. can withstand Favors' Puppy Power - Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight's game is, as My_Lo mentioned in the DB, is pretty big. The Nuggets are coming into town, the Lakers have the night off after beating Dallas, and the Jazz would like to make the playoffs. Oh, and there are only six more games afterward. We're looking at Luke's final run to try to blow up the Death Star here.

About the Denver Nuggets

They are one of the best teams in the league right now. They recently won 13 15 in a row (thanks, margabelle), and they're actually within a snowball chance in hell of knocking off the Thunder as the #2 seed in the West. Not that they will overtake the Thunder, but that they're even within four games of them at this point is pretty incredible.

Remember when Reggie Miller made fun of the stupid math nerds with their pocket squares for predicting the Nuggets would win the West? Well, it turned out to be a slightly better prediction than that the Lakers would challenge the 72-win record (the lesson here ... maybe don't make fun of stupid math nerds because math nerds are smart).

In other news, the Nuggets have the 4th best offensive rating in the NBA and the 11th best defensive rating. They would really like to win the game to (a) maybe capitalize on the outside chance the Thunder fall, or (b) keep ahold of the #3 seed and fight off Memphis and the Cippers who are trying to take it away, and most especially (c) ensure they play a team like the Warriors in the first round instead of the Grizzlies or Clippers.

* In case you're interested, I've determined there are eight tiers of teams in the NBA: 1) Heat, Spurs, and Thunder, 2) Nuggets, Pacers, Knicks, Grizzlies, and Clippers, 3) Warriors, Nets, Bulls, Hawks, and Rockets, 4) Jazz, Lakers, Celtics, Bucks, and Mavs, 5) Blazers, 76ers, and T-Wolves, 6) Raptors, Suns, Pistons, Cavs, Wizards and Pelicans, 7) Kings (always a category unto themselves), and 8) Magic and Bobcats. If the Nuggets end the season strong, they can turn this into nine tiers, with only themselves just a notch below the big-3.

A major obstacle to the Nuggets' quest to win lots more games is that Ty Lawson is not doing well. He's been diagnosed with a plantar fascia tear, and he's not playing tonight. However, because the Nuggets are a unique team built on depth in all positions, they still have high-quality players to fill in for him.

In this case, it's Professor Andre Miller, Ph.D. who will be filling in for Ty Lawson. As you no doubt know, Andre Miller led the Utes to the cusp of an NCAA championship about 48 years ago, and is thus the greatest college player to come out of the Pretty Great State of Utah in the History of the Universe. Any comment disparaging Professor Andre Miller, Ph.D. at any time, and in any place will be flagged by me. And since I'm also an admin/mod/whatever, you can be sure that swift action will be taken in response to comments that I flag.

Anyway, to sum up:

The Nuggets are a very good team trying hard to win. They are missing one of their most important players, but because it's a team built on depth and balance (not to mention terrific offense and good defense), they are more likely to succeed in spite of a major injury than other teams.

About the Mighty Utah Jazz

Our team had a predictable funk in which it played a lot of good teams (including many on the road), in which it went 3-12. Then it had a predictable surge in which it played a slate of meh teams (mostly at home), and they have now won 5 straight.

Enes Kanter is, of course, out. But we still have a strong front-line of Millsap, Big Al, and Derrick Favors. And watch out for Derrick Favors ... he's got himself some Puppy Power now. As the Sports Guy always says, never bet against puppies.

The team's offense has been quite a bit better over the past five games. It's also shot absurd percentages from 3. With Iguodala guarding Randy Foye, don't expect another 8-9 from downtown. But with Andre Miller guarding Mo Williams, perhaps another 6-7 performance is in him.

* This entire post has now been flagged, since Yucca has implied that the Great Professor Andre Miller, Ph.D. and the greatest college player out of Utah in the History of the Universe may not be a stellar defender. Expect your computer to self-destruct as the Basketball Gods rebel such sacrilege.

Anyway, so sum up: the Jazz need this win. They are fighting off the Lakers. They want to make the playoffs. They will need to sustain their recent good performances, but this time against a truly great team.

It's going to be a tough one.

Stuff to Watch:

  • The starting PG's: Mo vs. Andre.
  • The starting SG's: Iggy vs. Foye. Okay, this is probably going to be comical.
  • The starting SF's: Hayward vs. Gallo. This is one of the more fun match-ups, I think. And I say Hayward's better.
  • The starting PF's: Millsap vs. Faried. The Original Millsap vs. The New Millsap, but with dreads. You have no soul if you don't like Paul Millsap. And you have no soul if you don't like Kenneth Faried.
  • The starting C's: Big Al vs. THE KOOF. The guy we traded for Big Al vs. Big Al. You may not know it, but THE KOOF has been really, really effective this year. He also has residual Shums power from all the worship services in days of yore. And how odd is it that KOOF is now playing for the team he once BOOM'd against the team that employed him to do the BOOM'ing?
  • Favors/Marv/Burks/Tinsley off the bench vs. JaVale/Corey Brewer/Chandler/Evan Fournier.
  • Denver plays fast, but that was with Ty Lawson as the starting PG.
Miscellaneous: Denver Stiffs called Kanter's season a big disappointment. Which is funny. Raise your hand if you were disappointed in how well Kanter played this year before the injury. That's what I thought.
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