Game Day: Utah Jazz vs Denver Nuggets (3/23/12)
By Jeff Bartl
Posted Mar 23, 2012 2:33AM
The Denver Nuggets are currently in playoff position in the tightly-packed Western Conference, though the Utah Jazz are closing in quickly.
Utah seeks its sixth straight victory Friday night when it hosts Denver, which begins a season-high seven-game road trip.
The Jazz (25-22) won their season-best fifth consecutive game Thursday, 103-102 at Sacramento after Al Jefferson scored on a putback of a Devin Harris miss with less than a second remaining.
Jefferson finished with a game-high 26 points for Utah, which sits in ninth place in the West but can create a three-way tie with Denver and Houston for the final two playoff spots with a win Friday.
Coach Tyrone Corbin may not have been pleased his team blew a 14-point second-half lead, but any type of victory given the Jazz's situation will do for him.
"We are in a playoff hunt ... so this win was nice for us," Corbin said. "We're fighting and scratching and doing whatever it takes to win."
Utah is also seeking to win seven in a row at home for the first time since a 10-game run Feb. 24-April 6, 2010. To achieve that, the Jazz will need to slow Denver (26-21), which is coming off a dramatic victory of its own.
The Nuggets concluded a 5-4 homestand Wednesday by beating Detroit 116-115 on JaVale McGee's follow-up dunk with five seconds remaining.
McGee finished with 15 points in his Nuggets debut after being acquired from Washington at the trade deadline, and Ty Lawson scored a team-high 25. Now, the Nuggets take to the road, where they are averaging a league-high 105.8 points.
"Personally, I'm a road-type player," Lawson told the team's official website. "I like hearing boos and stuff like that. I'm ready for it, especially going to Utah and Chicago (on Monday) and places that have rowdy crowds. I love it."
Lawson also recognizes the importance of Friday's matchup.
"It's going to be a big game," he said. "Both teams know it's a big game. We need to get this win. We're going to be ready for it."
After the lengthy homestand, the Nuggets will be living out of suitcases until April 6, when they return to Colorado to host Phoenix. They haven't played away from home since sweeping a two-game Texas trip by beating Houston and San Antonio on March 2 and 4.
"I saw this road trip and said we're going to have to win three or four of those games," coach George Karl said. "To get in a good April position, we have to win three or four of these."
These teams split their two previous meetings this season, both in Denver. Lawson scored 15 points in the Nuggets' 117-100 victory Dec. 28, but Paul Millsap had 26 points and 12 rebounds to help the Jazz win the Jan. 15 rematch 106-96.
The Nuggets learned Thursday that backup guard Rudy Fernandez will have surgery to repair a nagging lower back injury that may sideline him for the rest of the season. The former Portland Trail Blazer has averaged 8.6 points while appearing in 31 games in his first season in Denver.
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