This evening in the Mile High City, the Utah Jazz (4-1) are facing their second bout with the Denver Nuggets (3-2). The last time these two teams faced, the Jazz came out with a level of energy, effort, and heart the Nuggets couldn’t match. They also, courtesy of Collin Sexton, provided us with a marquee moment for this season:
This is why Collin Sexton is called "Young Bull" pic.twitter.com/oPQFhRwNQz— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) October 20, 2022
In my eyes, this stands as Utah’s strongest test to date. Thus far, the Jazz have played with one significant advantage: the element of surprise. Through five games, Will Hardy has played a whopping 56 different lineups, with only 1 of them averaging more than 10 minutes per game. Teams have had a difficult time predicting who the Jazz will put on the court at any given time. But as we get further into the season, great teams like the Denver Nuggets will begin to scout their way around this issue. In their second matchup with Utah, I expect Denver to have a much more robust game plan.
When: 6:00 PM MT
Where: Ball Arena, Denver, Colorado
Radio: 97.5/1280 The Zone
QUESTIONABLE- Michael Porter Jr. (back)
QUESTIONABLE- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (ankle)
OUT- Rudy Gay (health & safety protocols)
OUT- Simone Fontecchio (health & safety protocols)
QUESTIONABLE- Walker Kessler (illness)
QUESTIONABLE- Collin Sexton (left oblique contusion)
What to watch for
Defending Nikola Jokic:
Through five games, Nikola Jokic has lead the Nuggets in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. The two-time MVP has picked up where he left off last season, serving as Denver’s one-man wrecking crew. While no team in the league has an answer for Jokic, the Jazz will have to find a way to make things more difficult for him. In their last game, Jokic shot an astronomical 70% from the field – something that Utah likely can’t afford to happen again.
With Walker Kessler potentially missing tonight’s game, the Jazz might have to rely upon a season debut from Udoka Azabuike for their backup center minutes. It’s good to see Dok’ off the injury report, especially since he faired pretty well in his start against the Nuggets last season. This could serve as a good opportunity to see where Utah’s former first-round pick stands in his third season.
Notably, while Jokic has averaged a triple-double, the rest of his supporting cast has struggled in the first leg of this year. Both Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are recovering from significant injuries and have yet to find their footing. Murray, specifically, has only averaged 12.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 3.3 assists a game.
Nonetheless, the Nuggets are -8.5 favorites vs. the Jazz. Let’s see if Utah can keep rolling as the NBA’s biggest surprise.