Denver Nuggets vs Utah Jazz Preview


The Denver Nuggets look to continue their winning ways when they face the Utah Jazz on Thursday (12/18).

The Denver Nuggets are winners of three-straight games, improving their record to a modest 11-14, but their record is good enough for eighth in the Western Conference. Before the Denver Nuggets’ recent run of winning form, they sat amongst the basement teams in the West; however, they prove that the Western Conference is open for any team, outside of the Los Angeles Lakers. Coincidentally, the Denver Nuggets flashed their winning ways without their star rookie Emmanuel Mudiay out of the lineup.

Next: Emmanuel Mudiay at Risk to Miss Extensive Time

Mudiay suffered an ankle sprain last week, and he remains out of the lineup, with Jameer Nelson filling the void in the short-term. The Denver Nuggets hoped to get healthier over the upcoming weeks; however, the Mudiay injury takes them a step back in this process. The Denver Nuggets recently cleared Jusuf Nurkic for full-contact practices, but he has not returned to game action. With Nurkic nearing a return to the court, the Denver Nuggets are one step closer to having their core frontcourt back in action.

The Utah Jazz present a tough matchup for the Denver Nuggets; however, the Jazz are limited in their own ways. Rudy Gobert suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain earlier this month, and he remains without a timetable for a return. The former Denver Nuggets center will miss Thursday’s game, leaving a frontcourt rotation of Jeff Withey and Derrick Favors to shoulder the load. Denver Nuggets’ big men Joffrey Lauvergne and Kenneth Faried have their work cut out for them, but the duo come off an impressive outing against the Timberwolves. 

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Kenneth Faried notched his second double-double in three games and Lauvergne was three rebounds away from one himself. Moreover, Will Barton continues to fill up the stat sheet in recent games, averaging 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds over his last three games. Barton continues to pick up the slack left by the poor shooting performances of Danilo Gallinari. Despite Gallinari’s impressive point totals, he continues to struggle to find his stroke from the field, posting the lowest field goal percentage of his career (.395).

Although Gallinari is struggling to shoot the ball this season, he is still a key component of the Denver Nuggets’ rotation. The Denver Nuggets will rely heavily on Gallinari, Barton, and Faried to lead the offensive side of the ball. For the Utah Jazz, Gordon Hayward is putting together the best season of his young career, and with Gobert out of the lineup, the Utah Jazz lean more on Hayward’s shooting prowess to help them during this stretch. Look for Hawyard and Favors to lead the Jazz in most statistical categories in Thursday’s matchup against the Denver Nuggets. 

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A player flying under the radar for the Utah Jazz is Trey Burke. Despite being a key figure in the Jazz’s second unit, Burke fills the stat sheet on a near-nightly basis, and he averages over 28 minutes per game this month. With the Jazz struggling of late, Burke may find himself in the starting rotation sooner rather than later. With a duo of Alec Burks and Trey Burke, the Utah Jazz have some solid, young players to lean on in the future.

The Denver Nuggets look to keep up their full head of steam as they head into their final road game before returning home for two-straight. The Denver Nuggets look like a low-caliber playoff team, as of now, but they need to keep up the good work. With Emmanuel Mudiay sidelined for an indefinite amount of time, the Denver Nuggets must continue to rely on veteran point guard Jameer Nelson to carry the team. The Denver Nuggets hope to improve their win streak to four games before returning home to play the Suns and Lakers.

Next: Emmanuel Mudiay at Risk to Miss Extensive Time

The Denver Nuggets possess a chance to improve their win streak to four games and head home with a strong chance to increase that to six games. Look for a gritty matchup against the neighboring Utah Jazz. Tipoff is at 7pm (MST).