Northwest division rivals square off in the Mile High City today as the 16-22 Utah Jazz visit the 20-17 Denver Nuggets (9 p.m. ET Friday).
Don’t let these teams’ relatively similar records fool you. Denver has been a lot better than Utah in the past few weeks, winning in blowout fashion several times behind a surging offense.
The Jazz, meanwhile, have struggled on both ends without their best player, center Rudy Gobert. Rookie shooting guard Donovan Mitchell has been outstanding, but the rest of the roster is maddeningly inconsistent.
Which squad will take the victory tonight? We’ll outline a few key plot lines that will be central in the matchup and then make our preview’s predictions and betting picks.
Can the Jazz’s Two Main Bench Wings Get Back on Track?
Utah’s Donovan Mitchell is a 21-year-old rookie shooting guard and the team’s leading scorer, at 18.3 points per game. Ironically, it is his more experienced backups who have been less consistent this season.
Rodney Hood has put up 11.8 points per game in his last five games off the bench, but his true shooting percentage is a miserable 37.8. Burks has been arguably worse, with an average of seven points per game and a 45 true shooting percentage over the span of the last 10 games.
Utah is already an offensively-challenged team even when both Hood and Burks are playing at their normal levels. When both guys are struggling, though, scoring efficiently becomes almost impossible for the Jazz.
Will Nikola Jokic Dominate Derrick Favors?
Jokic is an All-Star caliber player. He is also better than Favors, who is a solid starter but not quite at that next level. However, Favors has played pretty well as of late, as he often shines when Rudy Gobert is injured and he can be the full-time center.
The Nuggets usually win when Jokic stuffs the stat sheet efficiently. In Denver victories, his numbers are 16.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and just 2.1 turnovers per game on a 53 field-goal percentage. In losses, he puts up 15.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.1 turnovers per game with a 47.1 field-goal percentage.
That second set of numbers is still solid, but they aren’t dominant digits. Jokic’s stat line must resemble the first set of numbers against a solid opponent in Favors if the Nuggets want to cover the spread.
Can Utah Stay Competitive in the Battle of the Boards?
The Jazz have an uphill battle ahead of them on the glass. Denver ranks first in the NBA in rebound percentage (52.8), while Utah ranks 25th in the same stat (48.1). Rudy Gobert, Utah’s best rebounder, is also still out.
Without Gobert, the Jazz don’t really have any great rebounders. Derrick Favors is solid and Thabo Sefolosha is very good for a wing, but nobody is nearly as good as Nikola Jokic in that area. Denver also gets a lot of help on the glass from other players, such as Mason Plumlee, Trey Lyles and Wilson Chandler.
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder may need to play fewer lineups with just one big man to avoid getting outrebounded by a significant margin.
Our Preview’s Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets Betting Picks & Predictions
Denver is 4-2 with a point differential of plus-14.6 in its last six games. Utah, meanwhile, is on a nasty stretch of three wins in its last 14 games. Eight of the Jazz’ losses in that stretch have come by double digits, including a 24-point road loss to the Nuggets on December 26.
Not only is Denver playing way better than Utah at the moment, the Nuggets’ 13-4 record at home is miles better than the Jazz’ 3-15 mark on the road. This how our preview’s Jazz vs. Nuggets predictions and picks look:
- Denver is a pretty modest 6.5-point favorite here with the top rated online bookies for Americans. The obvious bet, from the perspective of this preview, is siding with the Nuggets -6.5pts @ -110 with either Bovada or Bookmaker.
- Denver’s improving offense and Utah’s poor offense square off here. I would expect a game with a fair amount of points. Bet on the over 207pts @ -110 with Bovada, Bookmaker or MyBookie.