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Game Preview: What to Watch for In the Nuggets Game Against Utah

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

In the current NBA, where playoff teams are determined by meshing entire conferences, there is always discussion about whether divisions are even necessary anymore. But while they are still around, you might as well win all the games you can against teams that are in yours. This is where the Nuggets stand as they face Northwest Division rival, the Utah Jazz, for the fourth and final time this season.

At stake: A split of the season series, which Utah leads right now 2-1. Also, the Nuggets are looking to extend their best start since 2012-13, when, through 38 games the team held a 22-16 record. The 20-17 Nuggets are currently six games ahead of last year’s pace, and can stay that way with a win.

This would also be the Nuggets 14th win at home, a total they didn’t reach last season until Feb. 6. This is the first of a back-to-back for the Nuggets, which finishes in Sacramento on Saturday night. It is also the start of three games in four nights, a set that finishes at Golden State on Monday night.

But getting a win against a struggling Utah team is job number one. How do they do that? Start with these things…

Stay away from points off of turnovers: In the Nuggets’ first two games against the Jazz they allowed, in order, 31 points off of turnovers and then 28 points off of turnovers. Not coincidentally, they lost both of those contests. However, in the matchup in Denver on Dec. 26, the Nuggets turned off the points off turnovers faucet, only allowing eight that night. They won the game by 24 points. This one area has been the lifeblood of Utah’s victories over the Nuggets this season. Keep it under control, force Utah to score against a set defense all night long, and the Nuggets will benefit.

Stay strong in perimeter defense: Utah works hard at generating 3-point shots, so it will be up to the Nuggets to cut those off. In the last meeting, the Nuggets were stellar against Jazz guards, holding Ricky Rubio, Rodney Hood, Joe Ingles, Joe Johnson and Alec Burks to a combined 10-of-43 from the field (23.2 percent). The name of the game is scoring points. If Utah can’t do that, then winning – from their perspective – is near impossible.

Keep finding easy buckets: The Nuggets were able to score a ton of points in the paint in the win over Phoenix. It started with manufacturing back cuts, and it continued with players being persistent in driving to the rim. The Nuggets had 68 points in the paint, and that led them to shoot a sizzling 62.2 percent from the field.

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