SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MAY 7: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets talks with Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz during the game on May 7, 2021 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Utah Prepares For Toughest Test Of Early Season With Denver Coming To Town

The Jazz must figure out a way to slow down reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets with the eyes of the nation watching tonight

Quin Snyder knows he’s probably not supposed to have favorites in the NBA—or at least not publicly admit who they are.

That still couldn’t stop the head coach from praising the play of Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, the 2020-21 MVP.

“He’s unique. … I love him,” Snyder said on Monday. “I don’t know if you’re allowed to kind of have a favorite player or things like that as a coach. … But he’s one of the guys that I really enjoy watching. I don’t enjoy scouting him as much as I do watching.”

Snyder and the Jazz will get an up-close look at Jokic and his Nuggets teammates when Utah hosts Denver on Tuesday night. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. MST and will air on TNT.

“What makes his skillset so unique is his size,” Snyder said. “He basically plays like a point guard, he can score like a wing, he’s got post moves and counters, and when he shoots his turnaround, it’s virtually unblockable.”

Standing at 6-foot-11 and weighing just shy of 300 pounds, Jokic is a mismatch nightmare thanks to his prodigious skillset. Much like Snyder said, Jokic can score in various ways, but that’s not what makes him so dangerous.

Some have labeled Jokic as the best passer in the NBA, a skill that he believes is arguably his greatest asset. It’s why Snyder has so much admiration for Jokic because of his cerebral approach to the game not only elevates himself, but his teammates as well.

“The thing that makes it hard is his ability to pass and all of the cutters and people that he can find,” Snyder said. “You don’t guard him with just one guy, he’s very difficult to double team. A lot of times you double team someone and they can get rid of the ball and make someone else beat you. … If you double team, he can still beat you.”

Snyder isn’t the only one who’s a fan of Jokic’s. 

Rudy Gobert also respects Jokic’s game, even going so far as saying that Jokic was his vote for MVP last season.

As each player has risen near the top of the game, the battles between Gobert and Jokic have been extraordinary over the past couple of seasons. While Jokic is the most talented offensive center in the league, Gobert hangs his hat on defense after being named a three-time defensive player of the year.

But the battles between the teams have been just as exciting since the 2018-19 season. 

Since then, they’ve met 17 times, including a memorable seven-game series in the second round of the playoffs two years ago. Utah has gone 8-9 against Denver during that time–and that’s why Gobert believes this meeting is just as important as the ones prior.

“There’s obviously some games where you know there’s a little extra,” Gobert said. “Denver is one of those teams. We know that at the end of the season, it’s those games that could be the difference between being first or second or maybe being fourth or fifth.”

Two of the top teams going at it in an early-season showdown–two of the best centers going head-to-head–what more could anyone want from a game in late October?

“It’s going to be a fun game, fun matchup. … We always have great games and great battles against them,” said Bojan Bogdanovic

INJURY REPORT

Utah Jazz
*Rudy Gay: OUT — right heel recovery
*Miye Oni: QUESTIONABLE — non-COVID related illness

Denver Nuggets
*Vlatko Cancar: OUT — left hip strain
*Jamal Murray: OUT — left knee injury recovery
*P.J. Dozier: Probable — left elbow strain

BROADCAST INFORMATION
Time: 8 p.m. MST
Location: Vivint Center / Salt Lake City, UT
TV: TNT
Radio: 1280 The Zone 

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