Tonight the Utah Jazz try to get back on track after a humiliating loss at home to the Los Angeles Lakers. Right now the Jazz are in a 'hot' streak of productive play. Not every game in February has been a win, but they've been competitive against the Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Suns and Mavericks (all losses), while taking home wins against the Kings, Pelicans, Trail Blazers, and Spurs. The Lakers game is an obvious blemish that a solid road win against the Nuggets can't mask, but it can make us feel better.
Both the Jazz and Nuggets were active at the trade deadline, where they traded Arron Afflalo, Alonzo Gee, and JaVale McGee away from the team -- and brought back Will Barton, Victor Claver (who was waived), Thomas Robinson (who was also waived), and the draft rights to Cenk Akyol. Utah traded away Enes Kanter and Steve Novak, and received Kendrick Perkins (who was bought out), Grant Jerrett, and the rights to Tibor Pleiss. The "new look" teams are both not going to make the playoffs this season. The Jazz are 11th in the Western conference, and the Nuggets are 13th.
It's not because they are bad teams or have bad players, but poor luck with getting players to mesh early and some bad injuries have derailed otherwise productive seasons. The Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw suggested to the media that his players were trying to get him fired. And Denver has been making "non winning moves" all season long, like trading away Nate Robinson for Jameer Nelson, or Timofey Mozgov to the Cavaliers for essentially nothing.
Utah will continue to be without Alec Burks, the University of Colorado product has been quite good in Denver over his career. The Nuggets have a bevvy of injuries to their front court, and will likely have to resort to playing small ball during stretch of this game. Jusuf Nurkic is out for tonight, Darrell Arthur is doubtful. Kenneth Faried is questionable. And WIlson Chandler is probable. Denver's non-even injury distribution has caused them problems of late, as they have lost 17 of their last 20 games. And those three wins came on January 14th, January 28th, and February 10th. Utah feels sorry about themselves for losing to the Lakers. This team beat the Lakers, but hasn't had much to be happy about. But to their credit, 11 of those 20 games were road games.
This game is at home. And that's a big deal. While the Jazz have proven that they can beat the Nuggets quite regularly, 102-74 overall all-time in the regular season; the Jazz are just not that solid on the other side of the mountain. Utah is 33-54 in Denver, and while their ability to win games there in the playoffs isn't out of the question, in the regular season it's not that likely. A 33-54 record translates to a 37.9 winning %. But it's not that bad.
In the last 40 games (including playoff games) the Jazz are 17-23 there, or winning in the Pepsi Center 42.5% of the time. That's good. The bad news is that during the same stretch the Jazz get blown out by 16 or more points 20.0% of the time. So about 40% of the time the Jazz win, about 40% of the time the Nuggets win, and 20% of the time the Jazz get blown out. That's not a very friendly distribution.
For the most part it's not that devastating though, over the last 40 games in Denver the Jazz are only down 4,118 to 4,017 in total points (-101), which translates to the final score being 102.95 - 100.43 in favor of Denver. A -2.53 final margin isn't the end of the world, even when 20% of the time the game ends in a blowout.
Do I fear a blowout tonight? Well, much like the '94 Jazz/Nuggets series I see that their team is much more deep and well rounded, and ours seems to be built around three main cogs. Denver is likely to resort to small ball because of injury, and two of our main cogs are bigs. It could be very bad for us.
Fearless Prediction: They have no equal to Rudy Gobert
Fearful Prediction: We have no answer for their wings