Jazz-Nuggets preview

Backing up isn’t an option, not for the Utah Jazz.

But it’s definitely a possibility tonight when they play host to the Denver Nuggets at EnergySolutions Arena.

Utah (39-36) come in on a five-game winning streak, each of the five a seemingly must-have contest. As the regular-season winds down, the Jazz are tied with the L.A. Lakers for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference playoff bracket, however, because they have the head-to-head tiebreaker over L.A., they own the post outright.

In order to keep it, all they have to do is keep winning. But that won’t be an easy task against a Denver team that went 13-2 last month.

Currently, the Nuggets (50-24) have the No. 3 position in the West playoff chase. Although they won’t have starting point guard Ty Lawson available (Plantar fascia tear), they’re still a remarkably solid team.

“I think at the beginning (of March) Ty Lawson was playing at an incredibly high level, I thought was playing (as) one of the top five point guards in basketball,” coach George Karl said. “I thought we were riding his momentum, but our bench as been extremely good, I think our bigs are underrated and I really think our defense is underrated.”

Denver is averaging 105.6 points per game, while allowing 101. The Nuggets are 8-2 in their last 10 games; they are 17-21 on the road this season.

The Jazz have averaged 98.6 points per game this season, while allowing 98.7. However, during the five-game win streak, they’re averaging 108.6 points and shooting 52 percent from the field.

They’re 28-9 on their home floor.

The Nuggets will go with former University of Utah All-American Andre Miller as their starting point guard.

Miller, 37, has averaged 13.4 points and 6.7 assists in 42 career games vs. the Jazz.

“We’ll be a little better offensively, five-on-five, as a team with Andre,” Karl said. “Andre, he’ll get you some lobs, he’ll get you some backdoors, he’ll get you some cute stuff.”

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About Jim Burton

Jim Burton has worked for the Standard-Examiner since 1991. He has covered everything from the preps to Utah, BYU, Weber State and the Ogden Raptors. Currently he is the Standard's Utah Jazz beatwriter and its sports columnist.
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