We are a few games shy of the quarter-pole for the NBA regular season, and things could not be going any worse right now for the Utah Jazz. A team that many - including myself - thought could make some noise in the Western Conference currently sits in ninth place with a record of 7-8. The Jazz have been done in by an injury-filled start to the season, with several key players missing time or trying to play through injury. The season started with Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward missing time through injury, and although Hayward is back and nearing 100 percent health Favors could miss extend time. The Jazz have also had to deal with injuries to Boris Diaw, Rodney Hood and George Hill. In a league where a team can carry only 12-15 players, depth is starting to become an issue for the Jazz.
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Unfortunately, no sympathy will be given to the Jazz from any team in the league as plenty of teams have to endure the same unlucky fortunes. What should be concerning for the Jazz is that they rank 27th in the league in points per game with 96. Obviously, it goes without saying that the scoring is bound to suffer when the talent is on the bench, but you can't win very many games if you can't score the basketball. However, the flip side of that is that the Jazz do rank first overall in the NBA in points per game allowed (95.1) - a full point better than second-place Memphis.
The Jazz are entering a stretch of the season where they play 10 of the next 12 games at home. This could be a make or break stretch for the Jazz if they can't defend home court and string together some wins.
As a reminder, I will release picks throughout the season using Doc's Sports Unit Betting System and will keep track of the results, regularly checking in with observations about what we can learn or have learned up to date.
Denver Nuggets @ Utah Jazz Betting Storylines
The Jazz come into tonight's game looking to snap a four-game losing streak and will have the benefit of catching the Nuggets on the second night of a back-to-back. While it's not exactly a long trip from Denver to Salt Lake City, playing back-to-back is tough in any league.
The Nuggets played to a 110-107-win last night against the Chicago Bulls and benefitted from a season-high in points from rookie Jamal Murray. The rookie out of Kentucky put up 24 points, but it was his teammate, Will Barton, that hit two free throws with 9.5 seconds left to put Denver ahead for good. The win was Denver's 10th straight home win over the Bulls and 16th in its last 17 meetings at the Pepsi Center. The result was also surprising considering how poor the Nuggets played defensively. They had no answer for Chicago's Jimmy Butler, who poured in a team-high 35 points.
The Jazz, meanwhile, will be rested and eager to snap their four-game losing streak while avenging a loss to these same Nuggets just three days ago. In that game, the Jazz shot just 38.3 percent and trailed from start to finish. It has been rough sailing for the Jazz lately and they are starting to lose ground in the crowded Western Conference. Since George Hill sprained his thumb in a victory on Nov. 6, the Jazz have gone 3-5 and are scoring just a shade over 90 points per game. With the way the Nuggets play defense, I wouldn't be surprised if the Jazz come out and put up 100-plus points and get the "W" over a tired Nuggets team.
The Nuggets' win over the Jazz on Sunday snapped a five-game losing streak to Utah extending back to the 2014-2015 season. Denver hasn't beaten the Utah in Salt Lake City since Dec. 1, 2014.
Denver Nuggets @ Utah Jazz Odds and Betting Trends
The Utah Jazz will be looking to snap a four-game slump and have been tabbed as a five-point favorite. The total sits at 198 (-110).
The Jazz are 9-3 ATS when playing against the Nuggets and 4-1 ATS when playing the Nuggets at home. The total has gone "under" the number in the last five games between these two teams. Denver is 2-4 SU in its last six games on the road.
Denver Nuggets @ Utah Jazz Predictions and Picks
This game will feature two very contrasting styles of play. The Nuggets like to push the ball up and down the floor and outrun their opponent. The Jazz, on the other hand, like to slow the pace down and play from the outside in, get to the free throw line and grind out low-scoring games.
These contrasting styles should make for a very interesting game. The winner of this game will be the team that is able to dictate the style of play, and I believe the Nuggets will be the team to do so.
My reasoning is simple. The Nuggets played last night and will have no problem with the Jazz slowing it down and playing a half-court style of game. That will allow the Nuggets to reserve energy for late in the game and should enable them to hang close and have a puncher's chance to get the win. If the Nuggets have anything left in the tank and push the pace early and try and get a stranglehold on the game before the Jazz can counter then the Jazz will have no answer offensively for the frenetic pace. They are just not built to play that style of game.
The Jazz are shooting the ball miserably and have looked out of sync for the last four games. The Nuggets come into the game on a high and will be looking to capitalize on their first two-game winning streak of the year.
Let's get a win tonight with a 3-unit play on the Nuggets +5, (-110).
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