The Utah Jazz try to avoid a fifth straight loss when they take on the Denver Nuggets in a matchup of the top teams in the Northwest Division on Sunday. The opening tip is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET at Ball Arena in Denver.
The Jazz have lost four in a row after beating the Nuggets on Jan. 5, including a 20-point home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. Utah is 28-14 and in first place in the Northwest Division, leading the second-place Nuggets by 5½ games.
Denver has won two straight and is coming off a rout of the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night, 133-96. The Nuggets are 22-19 and lead the third-place Minnesota Timberwolves by 2½ games in the Northwest Division standings.
The Jazz have been missing their anchor in the middle, as Rudy Gobert has been out for the past five games after testing positive for COVID-19 and being placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Gobert was cleared on Friday and should be a full participant in this game.
Gobert has been a force in the paint for Utah, leading the NBA in rebounding with 15.1 per game and ranking second in blocks with 2.3 per contest. He’s also scoring 15.5 points per game on 70.6% shooting from the field, so his absence has created quite a hole in the Jazz lineup.
Guard Donovan Mitchell continues to be the main offensive weapon for the Jazz, ranking seventh in the NBA with his 25.7 points per game. Mitchell has struggled a bit in two meetings with Denver this season, however, scoring 19.5 points per game while shooting just 11.1% from 3-point range.
The Jazz would like to see Joe Ingles regain his shooting touch off the bench. He missed four games with COVID-19 prior to getting tossed early from the loss to the Cavaliers with two technical fouls. Still, in his last three contests, the sharp-shooting guard has managed a total of six points without a single 3-pointer. Ingles is shooting 36.8% from 3-point range on the season and averaging 7.5 points.
On a Roll
The Nuggets’ offense has kicked into another gear over the last couple of games, as they’ve averaged 136.5 points in wins over the Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers. Rookie Bones Hyland could get a lot of credit for that, as he averaged 22 points in the two wins after averaging just 4.6 points per game in the first five January contests for the Nuggets.
A couple of career highs for @BizzyBones11 📈
27 PTS | 10 REB | 6 3PM pic.twitter.com/vs5e0LvqJ1
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) January 16, 2022
Hyland had career highs of 27 points and 10 rebounds in the blowout of the Lakers, giving the Nuggets five starters scoring in double figures.
Of course, the lynchpin of everything Denver does is center Nikola Jokic, who had a triple-double on Saturday with 17 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds. That kind of play is what earned Jokic league MVP honors a season ago and what makes the Nuggets title contenders. Jokic is averaging 25.3 points (10th in the league), 13.9 rebounds (second), and 7.2 assists (10th).
Forward Will Barton has been another solid offensive contributor for Denver, ranking second on the team with 15.2 points per game. Barton is shooting 37.4% from 3-point range while also averaging 4.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists per contest.
Nuggets Win At Home
Denver is on a roll at home and has won three in a row at home, though the last home loss was to the Jazz. The road team has won each of the first two meetings between these teams this season, but that changes on Sunday night.
When making your NBA picks, take Denver to win at home.