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Nuggets take on Jazz looking to reclaim home court dominance

T.J. McBride Avatar
November 20, 2016

 

Regular Season Game No. 13 | Utah Jazz (7-7) at Denver Nuggets (4-8)

Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado | 7:00 PM MST | TV: Altitude

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DENVER – After Denver Nuggets shootaround prior to the Sunday matchup against Utah Jazz, it was head coach Michael Malone that gave some great insight into how Jusuf Nurkic can break the defense of Rudy Gobert, how the Nuggets can control pace, and a positive update on Will Barton.

Here are a few storylines to look for before the Nuggets tip off the Jazz.

NURKIC ATTACKING THE STIFLE TOWER

The largest matchup, literally and metaphorically, will be the clash of Nurkic and Gobert. Both are physically imposing and Gobert is regarded as a top-5 defensive center in basketball. Coach Malone had some very insightful quotes on what the Nuggets need to do to negate his defensive presence.

“When we go inside to Nurk be strong, be physical. If you try to avoid the shot block then you play into his hands. The best way to attack a shot blocker is right through his chest and right through his chin.” Malone continued, “We have to make sure when we put Rudy Gobert in pick and rolls we have to attack him and take advantage of his aggressive shot blocking. What I mean by that is that when we get downhill, we engage him. That means he is going to come for every shot. We have a great opportunity to get easy drop-offs to our 5-man and if we get shots on the rim the 5s, whoever Gobert is guarding, should eat the offensive glass because he is trying to make a play on the ball at all times.”

Nurkic needs a bounce back performance after struggling through the Nuggets past seven games. Throughout that seven-game stretch, Nurkic is averaging a mellow 6.5 points and 4.8 rebounds a game while shooting an inefficient 42 percent from the field.

Nurkic, as well as Jokic and Faried at center, are going to have their hands full tonight. If the Nuggets hope to come away with their second home win of the season they will have to slow the defensive impact of Gobert.

DICTATING THE PACE OF THE GAME

The offenses of Utah and Denver are polar opposites. The Nuggets are seventh in pace at this juncture of the season while the Jazz are dead last. The Nuggets will need to find a way to control the tempo of the game and continue to use as many possessions a game as possible. Malone spoke on the conflicting offensive ideologies and what the Nuggets need to do to control the pace of the game.

“They lead the NBA in passes per possession. So what does that mean? We’re going to be playing against a short [shot] clock. They are going to get late into the clock so that is where our defensive discipline has to come into play. We are not a team that is up pressing and trapping and speeding them up so they are going to run their offense but now when they shoot it that is when we have to do a better job. We have to make sure our pace plays for all 48 and whenever we have chances to create pace and tempo we do so tonight so its not an 88-84 game because that is definitely to their advantage.”

For the young Nuggets roster, tonight will be a eye-opening test to how disciplined this team is. It will take a complete team effort defensively to get in a stance and defend for all 24 seconds on the shot clock. The Jazz score by letting their opposition beat themselves. Utah waits for the defense to break down and exposes mistakes. If the Nuggets can slow down and play methodically half-court defense it will be a big boost to their chance of leaving the Pepsi Center with a win.

BARTON NEARING A RETURN TO THE ROTATION

The biggest positive going into the clash with the Jazz is that Will Barton is now questionable to play and participated in shootaround this morning. Barton said he is feeling better and wants to give it a go tonight against the Jazz but as of right now he is a game-time decision. Barton’s ankle injury that he sustained in the first meeting against the Toronto Raptors has led to him missing the Nuggets last eight games.

Barton is the Nuggets leading scorer at 18 points per game and adds an athletic dimension that the roster lacks without him. Being that the Nuggets are missing the services of Gary Harris for upwards of another month getting back Barton will go a long way to shoring up the Nuggets thin back court.

Mike Miller is still not with the team due to non-specified personal reasons and Harris will miss another game with his right foot injury.

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