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What to Watch For in Nuggets Game at Utah Jazz

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – This is game No. 20 for the Nuggets, and that is of particular note to coach Michael Malone, who early in the season mentioned he wanted it to be a complete turnaround from what the team was 20 games into last season.

He’s getting just that.

If the Nuggets can get what has proven to be an elusive victory at Utah tonight, it will be a four-game improvement from the 20-game records of each of the last two seasons. They were 7-13 in each of those years. Getting that victory, however, will be a challenge. The Nuggets have not won in Utah in their last six tries.

“It’s a mixture of things,” guard Gary Harris said. “The crowd, the team, the way they play. They are a disciplined team. They don’t beat themselves. So, you’ve got to come in and know you have to take care of the ball. You can’t do things to give them extra possessions.”

Said Malone: “They are a good team. You have to start with that. With (Rudy) Gobert, without Rudy Gobert, I think (coach) Quin (Snyder) does a very good job. They are organized, they are well-coached, and they are a good defensive team.”

The Nuggets trail the season series 0-1 to the Jazz, but did play well for three quarters in the first matchup, which was the season opener for both teams.

“To get a win in here, it’s got to be a 48-minute effort,” Malone said. “We had a 36-minute effort in game one and it wasn’t good enough. So, you have to get all 48 minutes if you can.”

Doing these things over 48 minutes will help the Nuggets give themselves a solid chance to win.

Stay away from long droughts: In the first matchup between the two teams – the season opener on Oct. 18 – the Nuggets held a 15-point lead in the second half that Utah erased in a comeback victory. Turnovers were a big part of the Nuggets losing that second-half lead, but so was cold shooting as the Jazz turned up its defensive pressure. There will be difficult stretches and situations tonight. Can the Nuggets lean on heightened execution to see them through?

Defending strong throughout the shot clock: Utah will consistently test Denver’s ability to stay strong on defense through many long possessions. A whopping 69 percent of the shots the Jazz takes come with 15 seconds or less on the shot clock. A full 21 percent of their shots come with seven seconds or fewer on the shot clock. Couple that with a team that ranks second in the NBA in passes made, and you have a recipe for a lot of long, exhausting defensive possessions. The Nuggets will have to stay engaged and energized.

Watch the opposite corner three: The Utah Jazz are one of the worst teams in the league at scoring from the ball handler out of pick-and-roll action. However, getting the ball handler shots really isn’t the goal from their ball-screening action. They’ll get a big to roll hard to the rim in order to pull a weakside defender out of the corner… and then throw over the top to the shooter in that corner. Occupying defenders’ eyes and bodies on the strong side opens up shots for players like Rodney Hood, Joe Ingles and Alec Burks on the backside. The Nuggets have to be ready to sprint out to shooters and get them off the 3-point line.

INJURY REPORT: Wilson Chandler (back) is questionable for the game. Mason Plumlee (core) is expected to try and play. … For Utah, Rudy Gobert (knee bruise) and Joe Johnson (wrist) are both out of the game.

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter