There’s no rest for the weary or the injury-depleted, as the Utah Jazz (34-26) travel to Denver to take on the Nuggets (42-18) in the dreaded Denver back-to-back. To make matters worse, the Nuggets played a home game Tuesday and had yesterday off, giving them a clear advantage in this one. The cherry on top of the sewer sundae is that Utah will be without a point guard, as Ricky Rubio and Raul Neto have both been ruled out with hamstring tightness.
The only good news from the schedule is that this is a late tip-off. With the game being broadcast on TNT, the Jazz won’t get started until 8:30, giving them a couple extra hours of rest. We’ll see if that makes any difference.
The Nuggets are currently in hot pursuit of the Golden State Warriors in the standings, sitting only .5 game back for the No. 1 seed in the West after the Dubs lost again last night. Meanwhile, the Jazz can get back within .5 game of Houston for the No. 5 seed with a win and a Rockets loss against Miami.
When: Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019 • 8:30 PM MT
Where: Pepsi Center • Denver, CO
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
Dante Exum — Left Ankle Sprain — OUT
Tony Bradley — Right Knee Surgery — OUT
Ricky Rubio — Hamstring Tightness — OUT
Raul Neto — Hamstring Tightness — OUT
Trey Lyles — Left Hamstring Strain — OUT
Michael Porter Jr. — Back — OUT
Thomas Welsh — Shoulder — OUT
What to watch for
Donovan Mitchell: Point Guard
With Rubio, Exum and Neto all on the bench tonight with failing bodies, it will fall to Donovan Mitchell once again to take command of the offense. The bad news is that’s even more pressure on a second year player who is already among the most relied upon players to make his team go. The good news is it actually worked out pretty well last time.
After Exum, Rubio and Neto all went down in consecutive games from Jan. 5 to Jan. 9, Donovan took the reins at the point guard position for six games until Rubio returned to the starting lineup Jan. 23. In that span, Utah went 5-1 and Mitchell lit the world on fire. In 33 minutes per game, he put up 30.5 points (on 22.3 shots), 5.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals. He neared 60 percent true shooting and shot 35 percent from 3 on over 7 attempts per game.
I’m not sure why Nikola Jokic hasn’t been getting more MVP love this season. He’s the best player on a team that is pushing the Warriors for the West’s No. 1 seed. In 31 minutes per game he’s averaging 20.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 7.7 assists. He’s the best passing big man in the league.
During the Nuggets’ current 5-game win streak, Jokic is even hotter than usual. He’s up to 24 points and 13.7 rebounds per game. Oh, and he’s shooting 50 percent from behind the arc during this streak. Rudy Gobert and the Jazz will have their hands full with him tonight.