No rest for the weary.
In what’s emerged as an early-season theme for the Jazz, they’ll stick with the status quo on Saturday when they play their eighth back-to-back this season, the most in the NBA.
Just 24 hours after falling to Minnesota in an emotional and physical game, Utah squares off with Mountain West rival Denver on Saturday night — tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
“Thought the guys battled, competed,” head coach Will Hardy said postgame Friday. “The guys responded in the second half, did a very good job with the zone and mixing it up. Overall, a tough game shooting the ball, but our guys stayed in it and didn’t quit. … On to Denver.”
Unfortunately, Utah isn’t expected to be fully healthy for the trip to Denver, as Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, and Simone Fontecchio all missed Friday’s game. Markkanen and Fontecchio were listed as questionable with an illness and ankle injury, respectively, while Sexton is out for at least a week dealing with a hamstring strain.
There’s also a chance that point guard Mike Conley will also miss the game. On Friday night, he returned to the court for the first time in three weeks, finishing with 17 points and six assists in 25 minutes.
After recovering from a popliteus strain in his left leg, he admitted postgame that his conditioning isn’t where he’d like it to be. There were moments when he was exhausted Friday night, meaning the likelihood of his body recovering for Saturday at altitude isn’t promising.
Saturday’s showdown will be the third meeting between the two teams this season; Utah won the season opener before Denver rallied with a win a few weeks later.
Utah (15-13, 6-8 away / No. 6 Western Conference)
*117.5 Points Per Game (No. 3 in NBA)
*116.0 Offensive Rating (No. 4 in NBA)
*115.9 Points Per Game (No. 23 in NBA)
*113.9 Defensive Rating (No. 25 in NBA)
*Lauri Markkanen: 22.2 points | 8.5 rebounds | 2.2 assists | 41.3% 3P-shooting
*Jordan Clarkson: 19.8 points | 4.9 assists | 3.9 rebounds | 33.8% 3P-shooting
*Malik Beasley: 13.8 points | 3.8 rebounds | 39.0% 3P-shooting
*Kelly Olynyk: 13.0 points | 4.9 rebounds | 3.3 assists | 45.4% 3P-shooting
Denver (15-10, 6-3 home / No. 4 Western Conference)
*115.0 Points Per Game (No. 11 in NBA)
*114.8 Offensive Rating (No. 4 in NBA)
*114.0 Points Per Game (No. 19 in NBA)
*111.7 Defensive Rating (No. 27 in NBA)
*Nikola Jokic: 23.5 points | 10.0 rebounds | 8.9 assists
*Jamal Murray: 17.8 points | 5.1 assists | 35.7% 3P-shooting
*Aaron Gordon: 16.8 points | 6.6 rebounds | 41.0% 3P-shooting
*Kelly Olynyk vs. Aaron Gordon
— Playing a back-to-back and expecting to be severely depleted, the Jazz will need numerous players to step up and make a difference — most notably, Olynyk. The big man is capable of being a defacto point guard when needed, and can also score in bunches. For Utah to win, he will need to have a big game. Meanwhile, Gordon is settling in nicely in Denver — but with Michael Porter Jr. out and Jamal Murray still trying to find a rhythm, he will be called upon to step up and help Nikola Jokic out.
PROBABLE | Jamal Murray (left knee contusion)
PROBABLE | Jeff Green (right knee contusion)
OUT | Collin Gillespie (right lower leg fracture)
OUT | Michael Porter Jr. (left heel strain)
OUT | Jack White (G League - Two Way)
Time: 7:00 p.m. MST
Location: Ball Arena/ Denver, CO
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: KSL Sports Zone