Denver at Utah
Time: 9 PM CT, ESPN
Spread: UTA -2
Odds c/o 5dimes
Despite playing without key center Rudy Gobert the Utah Jazz are more than holding it together. As winners of its past two, it will host visiting Denver at 9 PM (CT) on ESPN Tuesday night. Utah enters as 2-point favorites in the game, and the Jazz currently still (somehow) occupy the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference standings, at just 9-11.
Utah knocked off the Milwaukee Bucks 121-108 recently, displaying perhaps more offense than anyone suspected this Jazz team even possessed. Utah drilled 18 three-pointers in the game and rookie Donovan Mitchell has been superb, as one of the biggest steals of the 2017 NBA draft.
The Louisville product led Utah in scoring with 24 points on 9 of 16 shooting, connecting on 6 of 10 from deep. Derrick Favors has helped replace Gobert for the time being, playing unsensational if not fully-efficient and quality basketball.
Favors broke out two seasons ago, but with Rudy’s emergence, he found his minutes drying up last season. Favors had 16 points and six boards in 29 minutes in the win, while posting the second-best plus/minus of any starter at +6. The Jazz bench consists of a lot of no names, it lacks superstars in its starting lineup, but what it is, is a quality basketball team. Ricky Rubio has shown the value of his leadership and defensive skills, gelling seamlessly with his new team. Joe Ingles does nothing sensational, but is steady and rock-solid in his second season. Between leading scorer Rodney Hood and Mitchell, the Jazz have the offensive weapons to score with other teams, heralded though the options are not.
Gobert’s return will put Utah back on track as the defensive team it is, but for the time being Utah is playing much differently, and still treading water. Perhaps not enough credit can ever be given to head coach Quinn Synder, who simply seems to get the best from all of his players by clearly defining their roles, both within the rotation and the defensive schemes. It is just a good and well-coached basketball team that appears to be a playoff threat, even after losing all-star Gordon Hayward to free agency last offseason.
The Denver Nuggets are 11-8 this season and have won six of its past 10 games to surge to No. 6 in the Western Conference. It should not really be a surprise to see this Nuggets team playing plus-.500 basketball, though. Center Nikola Jokic is a wizard with the basketball, and he has plenty of talent around him to dish the rock to. Jokic leads the Nuggets in scoring (16.3 points per game), rebounding (11.2) and assists (4.5) while posting a team-best PER of 25.2.
New addition Paul Millsap has thrived alongside him, while giving the Nuggets a legitimate post defender all at the same time. Denver is still several moves away from being a true contender, and it must start with moving some of the backcourt talent.
Denver basically has five shooting guards fighting for time at two positions, without a true point guard in the mix. Emmanuel Mudiay was supposed to be that, but appears to be nothing more than an exciting role player after a couple seasons to base such observations upon. Jamal Murray is thriving as a second-year guard from Kentucky, but he is still really playing out of position at the 1-spot.
Murray averages just 2.4 assists per game while turning it over 2.1 times per game, hardly a favorable ratio. For all the talent Denver has, it really needs to consider shopping for a point guard ,and with the Orlando Magic struggling while starting Elfrid Payton, that is one option that seems to scream “reclamation project.” Of course, that is just one scenario by which the Nuggets could obtain a true playmaker, but the reliance on Jokic to create almost everything is in some ways detrimental to a league based around strong guard play.