Preview: Denver Nuggets take on division rival Utah Jazz in NBA 2K battle

Social & Digital Content Manager

Just because the suspension of the 2019-20 NBA season is ongoing, it doesn’t mean that fans must entirely miss out on Nuggets basketball and the Pepsi Center experience.

Through the NBA 2K Game of the Week, Nuggets fans can continue to see their team take the virtual hardwood and face off against some of the top teams in the league. In the inaugural game last week, Denver knocked off the Los Angeles Lakers in a thrilling battle that came down to the final minute.

This week, Denver will host the Utah Jazz in a matchup between two of the elite Western Conference contenders who have had some memorable battles in recent seasons. Who could forget when Denver traveled to Utah to defeat the Jazz on the second night of a back-to-back with only seven players taking the court? It was one of the defining victories of Denver’s 2019-20 season.

The Jazz will look to enact some revenge on the virtual Pepsi Center court Thursday.

Projected starters (with 2K overall rating):

Nuggets (82 overall): Jamal Murray (84), Gary Harris (76), Will Barton III (80), Paul Millsap (82) and Nikola Jokić (91)

Jazz (80 overall): Mike Conley (78), Donovan Mitchell (87), Royce O’Neale (73), Bojan Bogdanovic (81), Rudy Gobert (87)

TUNE IN: 7 p.m. MT on Twitch, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube

Can Jokić continue to have success against Gobert?

In recent seasons, Gobert and Utah’s physical frontcourt presented problems for Jokić. With both Gobert and Derrick Favors serving as quality defensive options against Denver’s two-time All-Star, the Jazz were able to limit Jokić’s effectiveness.

However, Favors departed in the 2019 offseason and Jokić found plenty of success against Gobert this season. In two games against Utah, the Serbian big man averaged 29 points, 12.5 rebounds and 10 assists per game on 58.1 percent shooting from the field.

If Jokić can perform well in the virtual matchup, Denver will have a good shot at pulling out the home victory.

Conley and Clarkson lurk as dangerous scorers

Although most of the attention surrounds Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, the real-life Jazz have benefitted from a midseason trade for Jordan Clarkson, while offseason pickup Mike Conley has had his moments.

In two games against Denver this season, Clarkson averaged 26.5 points per game on 65.5 percent shooting, including 60 percent from beyond the arc. In the lone game Conley played against Denver, he dropped 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists. If the Nuggets can take them out of the offense, Utah may struggle to put up points.

Defending the virtual 3-point line

In Utah’s two games against the Nuggets this season, the Jazz knocked down plenty of 3-pointers. In a 106-100 loss at Pepsi Center on Jan. 30, Utah connected on 17-of-37 from beyond the arc. Then less than a week later the Jazz followed that performance up with a 14-of-35 shooting display from downtown.

Denver has been one of the best teams in the league in defending the 3-point line in real life. If that carries over to the virtual hardwood, Utah’s offense will likely struggle to keep up with Denver at the Pepsi Center.