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Utah Jazz vs Denver Nuggets Tip

Fri, Mar 4, 8:43am by Kevin Pitstock

The drive for the eight playoff spots in the NBA’s Western Conference is on and two teams active as last month’s trading deadline, Denver and Utah do battle Thursday night at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City. The Nuggets (35-26) are in fifth place in the west only 2.5 games behind Oklahoma City for home court in the first round while the Jazz (32-19) are in tenth place yet only three and a half games back of Denver. Tip off is set for 10:30 pm (Friday 2:30pm AEST) with the Nuggets favored by 3.5 points.

The new-look Nuggets have played well since the big trade that brought Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Danilo Gallinari from New York. Gallinari and his 16 points a game are likely out 7-10 days with a broken big toe. It was an odd trade for a playoff team as it seemed to destroy their core (losing superstar Carmelo Anthony) and build for the future but the Nuggets have managed to win two of three games with the new line-up. Felton is the new point guard and hasn’t missed a beat in the Rocky Mountain air averaging seven assists a game just like he did in the Big Apple. Wilson Chandler has shown his potential as well and scoring 17 per contest while grabbing nearly six boards a game from the small forward position. Denver defeated Atlanta Monday night led by J.R. Smith’s 19 points and Felton’s 15 but Chandler was a huge factor on defense. Ty Lawson had been slowed by the flu Monday but is expected at full strength for Thursday. He averages 10.3 points and four assists per game. Big man on the boards is center Nene Hilario who hauls in 7.2 per contest while contributing almost 15 points a night.

Utah ranks second in the NBA in assists per game. Too bad their leading scorer and point guard now plays in New Jersey. The trade that shipped Deron Williams to the Nets shocked the Salt Lake faithful almost as much as the sudden retirement of Jerry Sloan two weeks ago. New head coach Tyrone Corbin can select a line-up that includes Paul Milsap (17.5 points per game) and Al Jefferson (16.8) plus the small forward combination of CJ Miles and Andrei Kirilenko that hit for 23.3 points a game. Kirilenko starts and Miles plays the sixth man role. New point guard Devon Harris Williams is scoring at 16.7 points a game plus 7.3 assists and four rebounds per game. Shooting guard Raja Bell adds 8.2 points a game.

Utah played well in a five point loss to Boston. Denver looks poised to make a run at fourth place. The game is in Utah and the Nuggets rarely win there over the past five years but the Jazz don’t have it all together as yet. Look for Denver to squeak one out late but not cover (107-104) as Utah is missing the big gun to hit the big shot down the stretch.

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