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Preview - Utah Jazz @ Denver Nuggets

Even though the Jazz play the Nuggets four times a year, this is the first we've seen them since the season opener.  As you may or may not remember, that first meeting didn't go so well.  Neither did the next game.  But then they blew out the Thunder in OKC. 

So what happens tonight?  Your guess is as good as any.  We've seen the Jazz ratchet up the energy the past four games.  They were 2-2 without Deron and should have been 3-1.  The good news is that Deron is going to play tonight.  He was complaining up to a couple of days ago that he couldn't shoot outside of 12 feet.  He's been getting continued treatment though.

What I'm hoping to see is the same kind of effort from the team that we've got the past week.  We're not going to be favored to win this game.  Unfortunately, Denver hasn't blown things up yet and they don't appear to be letting the whole Melodrama affect them too much.

They sit just 1/2 games ahead of the Jazz in the NW.  They haven't been tearing it up lately but they're a solid 6-4 over their last 10 games.  The Jazz on the other hand are 2-8 and have let Denver pass them in the standings.

The Nuggets have maintained their offensive juggernaut.  They're first in the league in scoring efficiency at 112 point per 100 possessions.  They get to the line the most in the league and fifth in free-throw percentage.  They also take a lot of three-pointers and convert nearly 40% of them.  They have six players that are making at least 36% of their three-point attempts.  Carmelo, for all of his scoring abilities, hasn't been a consistent threat from behind the arc. He's shooting just 29% this season (which means he should go 5-6 tonight).  He was up to 37% a couple of years ago but that appears to have been an abberration.

So combine a lot of efficient three-point shooters with a lot of made/attempted free-throws, you can see why they're the best offense in the league.  That doesn't bode well for our defense that has struggled the past couple of months.  The only  way the Jazz are in this game at the end is if they can keep up offensively.  Without AK, Gordon Hayward gets the task of guarding Melo on the Nuggets logo.  Seriously, notice how many times he gets the ball on the right-side logo and shoots from there.

The biggest player you have to worry about tonight though is Nene.  We have a good sample size with over half the season gone and the guy is a machine.  He's putting up about 18 & 9 right now and leads the league in shooting percentage at 61% a night.  His offensive rating is 128 points per 100 possessions.  Goodness. 

As a result of that, we'll likely see Fess play tonight.  Maybe he can recreate some of his playoff magic from last season?

The Jazz aren't likely to stop the Nuggets tonight so they're going to have to be efficient and execute well on offense.  Denver is in the bottom third of the league defensively so the Jazz should be able to put up points.  Denver though has just 5 losses at home all season.  Those 5 were against the Hornets, Mavericks, Spurs, Lakers, and a game against the 76ers when Melo didn't play.  You can see what kind of team it takes to beat them on their home floor.

It would be a tall order to expect a win tonight even with a completely healthy Jazz team.  I hate moral victories as much as anyone else, but I'm mainly looking forward to seeing how much energy and focus they bring tonight.  How well are they going to run the offense against one of the bottom defensive teams in the league?

Any win would be a good win, but if they could steal one tonight, it may be one of the biggest of the season.