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Utah Jazz at Denver Nuggets Game Preview

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Jazz look to end three-game losing streak in Denver

NBA: Utah Jazz at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Currently, on a three-game losing streak, the Utah Jazz (7-7) are traveling to the Mile High City to take on the Denver Nuggets (4-8).

Both of these teams are struggling. The Jazz have only been struggling as of late, but the Nuggets have had a hard time all season, including a 1-4 record at home.

The Jazz are on the second leg of a back-to-back having lost the first leg 111-102 to James Harden and the Houston Rockets (8-5). Denver is also coming off a loss. They fell in overtime to the Toronto Raptors on Friday.

Most of the Nuggets’ scoring comes from three players: Danilo Gallinari (17.3), Wilson Chandler (17.1) off the bench, and Emmanuel Mudiay (16.3). Will Barton has the highest average (18.0), but he’s only played three games.

This recent stretch of games has been pretty harsh for the Jazz. Injuries have severely hurt the team (no pun intended) with George Hill, Derrick Favors, and Rodney Hood all out at least a game (oh, and Alec Burks too). Rodney Hood only missed one game, and George Hill will hopefully be back soon, which gives fans some hope.

Today’s game is an excellent opportunity for the Jazz to get things back on track after a tough stretch and jump back over .500. But this is by no means a gimme. It’s the second road game in as many days, and the Jazz are still short-handed. It’ll probably be closer than we’d like.

Injury Report

Utah Jazz

Alex Burks (Ankle) - OUT

George Hill (Sprained Thumb) - OUT

Derrick Favors (Bone Contusion) - OUT

Denver Nuggets

Will Barton (Ankle) - OUT

Gary Harris (Foot) - OUT

Darrell Arthur (Knee) - Doubtful

Mike Miller (Personal) - Probable

Projected Starters

PG: Dante Exum vs Jameer Nelson

SG: Rodney Hood vs Emmanuel Mudiay

SF: Gordon Hayward vs Danilo Gallinari

PF: Trey Lyles vs Kenneth Faried

C: Rudy Gobert vs Jusuf Nurkic

Marquee Match-up: Gordon Hayward vs Danilo Gallinari

These are the two key players for each team. Last season their numbers were very similar (19.5/5.3/2.5 vs. 19.7/5/3.7 and I’ll let you guess who’s stats belong to who). They are the first option on their team, and they produce the most for their teams (in general).

With both of these teams getting lots of production from players other than their number one option the player that wins this match-up could very likely not win the game. But it’ll still be interesting to watch the two white guys go at it (am I allowed to say that?).

X-Factor: Gordon Hayward

So I’m going with the boring, easy pick on this one but I have my reasons. During Utah’s road trip, where Hayward made his triumphant return, G-time averaged 24.4 points per game. The Jazz went 4-1. Over the last three games, Hayward has averaged an even ten points per game, and Utah has lost all three. I’m not sold on this being a coincidence.

Simply put, if Gordon Hayward can get his act together, then the Jazz have a much greater chance of winning.

Prediction: Jazz win

This is a game that Utah needs to win. The Nuggets are not a good team, and the Jazz are (or at least should be) a good team. Yes, injuries have hampered this team, but Utah needs to come away with it. And though I can be terribly pessimistic at times, I think they will.