The grind of an NBA regular season can be unforgiving at times.
Following a dominant 133-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Denver Nuggets will be right back on the hardwood Sunday night as they host the Utah Jazz.
Denver’s offense has found a rhythm as of late, scoring over 130 points in each of the past two games. In the victory over LA, the Nuggets hit a season-high 23 3-pointers. Seven players scored in double-figures for the Nuggets (22-19).
Utah (28-14) struggled without its defensive anchor in Rudy Gobert, who missed time in the health and safety protocols. The Jazz have lost four straight games heading into Sunday’s contest, but Gobert is expected to return to the lineup to help Utah turn things around.
Utah has won the first two meetings between the teams this season, including a win in Denver back on Jan. 5.
TUNE-IN: 6 p.m. MT, Altitude TV and 92.5FM
Defend the three
It’s a familiar story by now for the Jazz. 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. The Jazz currently rank first in the league in offensive rating, per Cleaning the Glass.
Most of the offensive attack for the Jazz comes from beyond the arc, as Utah ranks first in the frequency of 3-point attempts (43.8 percent of total shot attempts). Although the team’s 3-point percentage has slipped a little bit from last season, the Jazz still rank sixth in that regard at 37.2 percent.
Denver ranks right around league average defensively in terms of 3-point attempts allowed, but teams have only converted on 34.2 percent of those attempts, which is the sixth-lowest rate in the league. Sunday’s matchup with Utah will be another test for the Nuggets’ defense.
Win the possession battle
Denver has struggled with turnovers as of late.
After jumping up near the top 10 in turnover percentage earlier in the season, the Mile High squad finds itself back at 20th, having coughed it up on 14.5 percent of its possessions this season.
Sunday’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. On the other end of the floor, Utah shares a 14.5 percent turnover percentage, which could present some opportunities for Denver to take advantage of Sunday night.
Protect the defensive glass
An intriguing battle in Sunday’s contest will be on the boards, particularly Utah’s offensive rebounding prowess against Denver’s elite defensive rebounding.
On the season, Utah ranks sixth in offensive rebound percentage, while the Nuggets rank second in opponent offensive rebound percentage (i.e., they have been dominant in limiting second-chance opportunities).
The Jazz have grabbed a combined 16 offensive rebounds through the first two meetings of the season, which is below their season average of 10.3 per game. The Nuggets will need to finish defensive possessions with a rebound often Sunday night if they hope to pull out the win on the second night of a back-to-back.