As the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz meet tonight for fourth and final time in the regular season, it will be a much different Utah team that takes the court. In the previous three meetings, Utah has won them all but this time around they will be without their two best players in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Both of which are lost to injury at this time, and it has been a rough stretch for Utah. The Jazz have lost five straight games and 11 of their last 13 overall, in addition to losing forward Joe Ingles for the season due to a bad injury. Utah comes in after getting blown out in their last game against Minnesota and is looking to find some type of way to stop the bleeding. They currently are 30-21 and hold a record of 15-10 at home in Salt Lake City. As for Denver, they come in with a record of 28-22 and have won seven of their last ten games overall. They also lost to the Timberwolves last time out and will look to avoid being swept by Utah in the season series. Denver holds a road record of 15-13 and will want to keep pace in the tough Western Conference.
How Denver can win: Against teams in the Northwest Division, Denver is 4-7 overall and will look to improve that against Utah. Going up against the Jazz without their two best players makes this game much easier for Denver and they should look to attack the paint with Nikola Jokic. Without the defensive savant that Rudy Gobert is, Jokic should feast on the inside and the Nuggets should go to him early and often. Jokic has been playing at an extremely high level once again this season, averaging 25.9 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 7.8 assists on 57.2 percent shooting from the field. Last seasons MVP is showing it was no fluke and that he is squarely in the conversation to win the award again. Jokic has kept this Denver team alive while guard Jamal Murray and forward Michael Porter Jr. have been out with injury and against Utah, he should be able to put up big numbers again.
Over the last ten games, Denver is averaging 120.1 points, 43.8 rebounds, 30.9 assists, 7.6 steals, and 2.8 blocks per game while shooting 48.7 percent from the field. If they can put up points in this game, they should be able to take down Utah who may have trouble scoring without their star players.
How Utah can win: When it rains, it pours, and it is pouring right now for the Jazz. Losing Joe Ingles to injury while Gobert and Mitchell have been out hurts for a team with such high aspirations. Without their best players, role players such as Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, and Jordan Clarkson are going to need to step up and score consistently. Clarkson has been a nice addition to Utah over the last couple of seasons and is having another solid year, averaging 15.5 points per game. They will need him to bump that number up if they are to stay afloat while their stars remain out. Utah has many veterans on the roster so pride shouldn’t be an issue, just a matter of going out there and executing to the best of their abilities.
As a team, Utah is 10-1 against division opponents but are now faced with an entirely new challenge. Containing Jokic will be the first step for Utah if they have any hope of winning this game and stopping their losing streak.
The Spread Via FanDuel:
Moneyline: DEN: (+110) | UTAH: (-130)
Spread: DEN: +2 (-110) | UTAH: -2 (-110)
Final Prediction: Denver Nuggets 116 Utah Jazz 106
–Give me Denver to win this game as the Jazz will be without both of their star players. Jokic should be able to work the inside and score basically at will without Gobert. However, Utah will fight and keep this game somewhat close especially with it being in Salt Lake City, which is a very real home-field advantage around the association. Denver is the much healthier team with their star player suiting up so look for them to come home with the win here.