Tonight, the Utah Jazz march into enemy territory in Denver to take on the greedy Nuggets. There are too many reasons to be excited about this match-up. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that this is the biggest game of the season for the Jazz, thus far.
First of all, let’s remember the incredible performance these two teams put on against each other in the Orlando bubble. Although the Jazz ended up blowing a 3-1 lead in the series, it was certainly an exciting and memorable time for Jazz fans.
Remember the SPIDA dropping 57 in game 1?
What about 51 points in game 4? In a duel against Jamal Murray who had 50?
Do you remember how you felt watching the final 17 seconds of the series? How did you feel watching such an incredible sequence of events? How did you feel watching Mike Conley’s game winning 3 roll out of the rim? Were you exhilarated? Relieved? Deflated? Let us know in the comments.
This season, the Jazz have outperformed the Nuggets so far this young season. The Nuggets are a meddling .500, while the Jazz sit 2 games ahead of them at 8-4.
This is a huge test for the Jazz, who have won 4 in a row. Beating down the Nuggets tonight would make a statement for a Jazz team with something to prove. If the Jazz come out focused, with a chip on their shoulder, then I like their chances.
When: Sunday, January 17th • 6:00 PM MT
Where: Ball Arena, Denver, CO
TV: AT&T SportsNet - Rocky Mountain
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
What to watch for
Mike Conley versus Nikola Jokic?
According to 538’s metrics, tonight’s matchup will feature the two “best NBA players” of the season thus far. Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray? Nah. Nikola Jokic and Rudy Gobert? Nah.
Jokic and Mike Conley top 538’s analytical leaderboard for best player in the NBA. I knew Conley was having a great season, but it is surprising to see him up so high on the list.
Conley is a +5.7 on D. Is that a reflection of sharing the court with Gobert? Or is Conley just stepping it up big time this season? Either way, Conley has been legit this season and Jazz fans should feel luck to have him.
Kudos to the Utah Jazz organization for always standing by their decision to trade for Mike Conley, especially when he struggled at the beginning of his Jazz tenure. If Conley had made the game winning 3, in game 7, we would be talking about Conley as a living legend.
Battle of the Big Men
Outside of flawed analytical rankings, the truly intriguing matchup is the Joker versus the Stifle Tower. Jokic creates obvious problems as a big man who is an exceptional passer and can stretch the floor with his shooting.
At times, Jokic has played really well against Gobert. Remember this game winner?
And, other times, Gobert has been very effective.
I thought the Jazz struggled mightily against Denver in the playoffs last year whenever the Jazz had to rely on anyone not named Gobert in the middle. Obviously, Ed Davis wasn’t who we thought he was, and, well, maybe Tony Bradley was exactly who we thought he was. Anyway, neither of them could stop the Nuggets while Gobert was on the bench.
Bol Bol has been getting a little play this season. How will he fair against the Jazz?
The (re)addition of Derrick Favors and the subtraction of Jerami Grant should work to the Jazz’ advantage. I expect Favs to make an impact with the second unit.
Grant was huge for the Nuggets in the playoffs last year. Frankly, I’m surprised they let him go. He’s averaging 25 points per game while shooting 54 eFG%.
The roster turnover between this season and last shifts the advantage to the Jazz who are now the better team.
Jazz injury report:— utahjazz (@utahjazz) January 17, 2021
Joe Ingles - OUT (right Achilles soreness)
Juwan Morgan - OUT (health and safety protocols)
Derrick Favors - PROBABLE (right knee soreness)
For the Nuggets, Michael Porter is still out for COVID-19 protocols. They could also be without Gary Harris, who missed the previous 2 games for personal reason.
Minus Harris (maybe), Grant, and Porter Jr., the Nuggets will falter against the Jazz. The starting line-ups will play fairly evenly, with the Jazz eking out a slight advantage. The Jazz dominate bench minutes with Favors and Clarkson having big games. Jazz win 110-96.
Who will be the Most Valuable Player tonight? (Back up your pick in the comments)
This poll is closed