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Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets Game Preview -- Bad Blood continues

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Game #48: Nuggets (19-30) @ Jazz (22-25)
Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena • Salt Lake City, UT
Time: 7:00 p.m. (MT)
TV: ROOT Sports • Radio: 1280 AM / 97.5 FM

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

It's another rivalry game tonight, as the Utah Jazz host the Denver Nuggets. These two teams have some bad blood (because I just know you're a big fan of that song): they've played 23 playoff games over the years with the Jazz leading 12-11 -- but have the 3 to 1 series lead; they've had some player clashes over the years with Carmelo Anthony protesting Andrei Kirilenko's All-Star nod; and worse still, Mehmet Okur had (essentially) a career ending injury against them, Chris Andersen bumped Deron Williams and gave him a shoulder injury in a close out playoff game, and last season Arron Afflalo ended Alec Burks' year with a bad play. These two teams have played two times already with the Jazz winning 96-84 (recap) and 97-88 (recap). The Jazz can win the season series tonight with a win tonight. Of course, the Denver Nuggets aren't just going to let that happen without a fight. (Again, Bad Blood.)

History and Recent Play:

The Nuggets and Jazz have played 181 games in the regular season, and the Jazz are in the lead 106-75. Utah's a commanding 71-20 at home -- and have won the last three games. But the did win in Utah last season. And had been playing pretty well of late. The Nuggets beat the #2 team in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors, 112-93 in their last game. The game before that they lost in overtime to the Indiana Pacers on the road. The game before that one had them defeating the Washington Wizards in D.C. Looking backwards, and over their losses against the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics, they also recently beat the Detroit Pistons. Those are three big games and one OT loss in the last little while. Denver is like Utah in that they've had a lot of injures this season and their team is actually better than what the record shows.

They've had a night off, and are rest and ready. Unfortunately for them, they will be without Jameer Nelson (who had just come back from injury) tonight. And they will continue to be without Wilson Chandler (out all season with right hip surgery and rehab). Jazz fans know what that's like, they have been without starter Dante Exum all season long, and are currently without key bench scorer Alec Burks. In this way both teams have the same disadvantage -- down one starter and one rotation player. If you factor in the elevation isn't an advantage for the Jazz tonight, and they are playing well right now -- it's a pretty even-ish foundation for yet another tough Jazz/Nuggets game.

2015 2016 GM 048 DEN at UTA - PPG ORTG DRTG PACE

The Jazz are Top 15 in ORTG and DRTG, the Nuggets? Not so much. On paper this should be an Jazz win, but not much looks bad on paper. But let's look at the players too!

Starters:

Nuggets Starters G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG PRASB /min
PG Emmanuel Mudiay 35 29.6 11.1 3.3 5.7 1.0 0.6 21.7 0.73
SG Gary Harris 43 30.3 11.2 2.7 1.7 1.2 0.3 17.1 0.56
SF Danilo Gallinari 43 34.4 19.3 5.6 2.6 0.7 0.4 28.6 0.83
PF Kenneth Faried 42 26.4 12.3 8.9 1.2 0.5 1.0 23.9 0.91
C Nikola Jokic 47 19.7 9.6 5.9 1.9 1.0 0.6 19.0 0.96
Utah Starters G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG PRASB /min
PG Raul Neto 46 19.4 5.8 1.5 2.4 0.8 0.0 10.5 0.54
SG Rodney Hood 45 30.8 14.3 3.2 2.7 0.9 0.2 21.3 0.69
SF Gordon Hayward 47 35.7 19.9 5.2 3.7 1.2 0.3 30.3 0.85
PF Derrick Favors 30 32.0 16.6 8.3 1.5 1.3 1.2 28.9 0.90
C Rudy Gobert 27 33.0 9.8 10.6 1.7 0.8 2.5 25.4 0.77

So this is interesting. Mudiay is getting better and held his own against Kyle Lowry, but Neto just had an amazing game against Derrick Rose. I do think that Hood and Hayward are a heck of a lot for other teams to handle right now. They are playing very well. Also, the Jazz have the inside advantage here. Easily. (Even if Jokic had a beast game of 27 and 14 against Toronto.)

Key Bench:

Nuggets Bench G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG PRASB /min
6 Randy Foye 49 19.7 6.1 1.9 2.1 0.4 0.3 10.8 0.55
7 Will Barton 49 28.9 15.6 6.0 2.4 0.9 0.4 25.3 0.88
8 Mike Miller 36 8.3 1.3 1.2 0.9 0.3 0.1 3.8 0.46
9 Darrell Arthur 46 20.7 7.0 4.0 1.3 0.8 0.7 13.8 0.67
10 Jusuf Nurkic 12 13.2 6.3 4.8 0.7 0.3 1.1 13.2 1.00
Utah Bench G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG PRASB /min
6 Trey Burke 47 24.2 12.3 2.0 2.6 0.6 0.1 17.6 0.73
7 Chris Johnson 38 11.3 2.9 1.8 0.8 0.6 0.2 6.3 0.56
8 Joe Ingles 46 14.4 4.1 1.7 1.1 0.6 0.1 7.6 0.53
9 Trevor Booker 45 22.7 5.7 6.5 1.0 1.0 0.6 14.8 0.65
10 Jeff Withey 38 14.7 4.8 3.9 0.4 0.5 1.3 10.9 0.74

Both benches are missing a key scorer, and it makes the overall depth less than impressive. Barton is ballin' this year, it would have been fun to see Burks against him. Similarly, there's no Nelson, so that means no battle against Burke. It should be noted that Trey Lyles (PF) and Joffrey Lauvergne (C) aren't listed here. I wouldn't be surprised to see one if not both have positive impacts for their club in this game.

Injuries / Absences:

Injuries / Absences G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG PRASB /min
X Alec Burks 28 27.1 14.3 3.6 2.1 0.6 0.1 20.7 0.76
X Jameer Nelson 38 27.1 7.9 3.0 5.0 0.7 0.1 16.7 0.62
X Wilson Chandler 0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.00
X Dante Exum 0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.00

I think both teams are equally disadvantaged in this game with injuries. Also, I failed to include Tibor Pleiss here because he's down with the NBADL right now. My bad.

Putting it all together this game favors the Jazz, but it may not be a blowout. Denver is playing better and better and aren't tired, more injured, playing down, or have an altitude disadvantage. It's going to be a good game for some bad blood.

GO JAZZ GO!