Preview: Denver Nuggets return home to face Utah Jazz
The rollercoaster 2021-22 season continued for the Denver Nuggets Monday night, as the Mile High squad couldn’t extend its winning streak in a tough loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Denver will have plenty to sort out and clean up Wednesday night in its return to Ball Arena, as cold 3-point shooting and turnover issues have plagued the team during the first two games of 2022. Despite 27 points and 16 rebounds from Nikola Jokić, the Nuggets could only muster 89 points against Dallas, with no other player scoring more than 15 in the game.
Now Denver (18-17) faces a tough test in the form of the Utah Jazz, who continue to chug along with the league’s top-ranked offense.
Utah (27-10) is 7-3 in its last 10 games and supports that high-powered offense with the fifth-ranked defense. However, there has been some slippage on that end of the floor as of late, as the Jazz own the 13th-ranked defense over the past two weeks per Cleaning the Glass. Led by a plethora of playmakers in the backcourt and shooters on the wing, Utah has established itself as a truly dominant offensive team, while Rudy Gobert continues to anchor a stingy defense.
Utah won the first meeting between the two teams back in October.
JAMAL MURRAY – LEFT KNEE INJURY RECOVERY. OUT.
MICHAEL PORTER JR. – LUMBAR SPINE SURGERY. OUT.
MONTE MORRIS – HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS. OUT.
MARKUS HOWARD – LEFT KNEE SPRAIN. OUT.
P.J. DOZIER – LEFT ACL SURGERY. OUT.
VLATKO CANCAR – RIGHT FOOT FRACTURE. OUT.
JEFF GREEN - HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS. OUT.
AUSTIN RIVERS – RIGHT THUMB SPRAIN. QUESTIONABLE.
ZEKE NNAJI – HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS. QUESTIONABLE.
TUNE-IN: 8 p.m. MT, Altitude TV and ESPN, 92.5FM
Limit the mistakes on offense
Over the past two games, the Nuggets have committed 44 turnovers.
Given the shorthanded nature of the team’s rotation, those mistakes are costly, especially when opponents combine to score 44 points off of those mistakes. Given Denver’s lack of steady playmakers and shot creators due to injury and health and safety protocols, the priority must be to value each possession to find a quality shot.
Wednesday’s matchup with the Jazz should provide such an opportunity, as the one area Utah struggles in defensively is forcing turnovers, as it ranks 28th in opponent turnover percentage. The Nuggets must limit their mistakes when facing one of the league’s elite teams.
Defend the three
You know the story by now. Utah’s offense, fueled by pick-and-roll attacks, drives to the basket, and kick-out passes for 3-pointers, has been dominant this season.
Most of the offensive attack for the Jazz comes from beyond the arc, as Utah ranks first in the frequency of 3-point attempts (44 percent of total shot attempts). Although the team’s 3-point percentage has slipped a little bit from last season, the Jazz still rank seventh in that regard at 37.2 percent.
Denver ranks right around league average defensively in terms of 3-point attempts allowed and opponent 3-point percentage, but Wednesday’s matchup with Utah will be another test for the Nuggets’ defense.
Attack in transition
Utah isn’t vulnerable in many areas on the defensive end of the floor (no surprise considering the Jazz rank in the top five in defensive rating). However, one area Denver should look to exploit whenever possible is Utah’s transition defense.
The Jazz are stingy in halfcourt settings, ranking fourth in defensive rating in such possessions. However, teams have been effective in transition against Utah, as the Jazz rank 25th in opponent points added per 100 possessions in transition.
Of course, Utah hasn’t allowed teams to get out and run too often against them, ranking in the top 10 in opponent frequency of possessions beginning in transition, but the Nuggets will have to capitalize on any turnovers and opportunities the Jazz present Wednesday night if they hope to pull off the upset at Ball Arena.