When the Utah Jazz met the Denver Nuggets for the season opener, these two teams looked much different than what they do today. Both teams are missing one of their best big men, Rudy Gobert and Paul Millsap, and both teams are not quite off as hot a start as they had hoped. While the Denver Nuggets find themselves 3 games above .500, it’s far from the expectations that many had about teams in the Northwest Division.
This Jazz squad has had their early season struggles due to a rash of injuries to key players, Ricky Rubio struggling with his new role, or the growing pains of young players. Utah has been finding some rhythm and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Utah’s schedule is about to get nasty. December is not only the toughest month of Utah’s schedule, but the toughest month for any NBA team’s schedule for any month. It’s going to be a gauntlet. Any rhythm Utah can find now will pay huge dividends later in the season.
One fun note: The Utah Jazz will be wearing their gold uniforms for the second time tonight. They had a spectacular game in them against the Milwaukee Bucks and they’re hoping they may have found their good luck charm in this Nike beauties.
When: 8:00PM MT November 28, 2017
Where: Vivint SmartHome Arena
TV: ESPN, AT&T Sportsnet Rocky Mountain
Radio: 1280 and 97.5 The Zone
Paul Millsap - OUT (Wrist) - 3 Months
Wilson Chandler - Questionable (Back) - Day to Day
Mason Plumlee - Questionable (Abdominal) - Day to Day
C Rudy Gobert – OUT (Knee) - 2-3 weeks
SF/PF Joe Johnson – OUT (Wrist) - 1 week
PG Dante Exum – OUT (Shoulder) - Indefinite
What To Watch For
How do Jazz defend Nikola Jokic?
This is going to be a reoccurring theme without Rudy Gobert protecting the paint. Jokic and the rest of this Denver offense is going to be attacking the paint like a Utah family attacks Chuck-o-rama. Jokic is having himself quite the season averaging 16 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal a game. Derrick Favors will once again have his hands full guarding someone who is bigger than himself, but with one unique wrinkle: his playmaking. A lot of Denver’s offense runs through the big man and with Jokic pulling Favors from the paint the Jazz will have to be at the ready. Jokic is the type of player that stresses your defense and puts extra pressure on your perimeter players to defend.
Derrick Favors is no slouch when it comes to the defensive end, but he will be forced to close out on the perimeter as Jokic is a 40% 3 point shooter.
Remember Donovan Mitchell?
Poor Denver already had to wonder what if when they faced Rudy Gobert four times a season and remember that all they got back was Erick Green and cash, but now they have to see Donovan Mitchell show them what they missed out on as well. Donovan Mitchell could have Denver fans frustrated that they missed out on him for years to come. So far the Jazz rookie is averaging 18 points, 4 rebounds, and nearly 4 assists a game in the month of November. When he shares the floor with Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors the Jazz play like a 60 win team. In other words, Denver you done messed up.
Not that we’re complaining. Donovan Mitchell will be guarding Gary Harris tonight and we have a feeling that Mitchell and his bulldog defense are up to the task.
Most Likely Jazz Killer: Will Barton
In the season opener he had 23 points, most of those in the first half. Remember when the Jazz just struggled keeping him under control? A dominant defensive effort in the second half saved the Jazz from being embarrassed on their home floor, but lightning rarely strikes twice. The Jazz can’t allow Barton to get going again because they don’t have Rudy Gobert’s interior defense available tonight to repeat that Herculean effort.