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Denver Nuggets vs Utah Jazz Picks, Predictions & Odds
The Denver Nuggets are neck-deep in a push for the playoffs, mainly because of some recent mediocrity and inconsistency. The Utah Jazz is surging to keep itself in the playoff chase, and is actually one of several teams breathing down Denver’s neck for the No. 7 spot. In a game that likely will have large playoff implications for both teams, the Nuggets will visit Salt Lake City Friday night to take on the now-hot Jazz. These teams split the first two meetings this season, with both of those games in Denver. Here’s a look at what to expect from both teams to help you make your NBA picks tonight.
Denver Nuggets (26-21) @ Utah Jazz (25-22), 10:30 p.m. ET
The Nuggets haven’t been able to separate themselves from those chasing a playoff spot because they’ve been struggling to find momentum. Since a four-game win streak, Denver has alternated wins and losses in each of its last eight games, the most recent a 116-115 home escape vs. Detroit Wednesday night. The Nuggets are nothing if not entertaining, leading the league in scoring (104 ppg) and ranking as one of the worst scoring-defense teams (102 ppg). Six players score in double figures for Denver – and this includes recent addition JaVale McGee, who debuted with 15 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes in his first game as a trade replacement for Nene. The offense runs through Ty Lawson (15.4 ppg, 6.8 apg), however. As he goes, Denver goes. Denver is one of the few teams in the NBA with a winning record on the road (11-9)
The Jazz has been on a little run lately. Since a loss at Phoenix, Utah has won five straight games, including a win at the Lakers and knocking off Oklahoma City, 97-90. Utah has also won its last six home games and seven of eight dating back to Feb. 17. The Jazz have been favoring the inside game, with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap putting up a combined 35 points and 18 rebounds per game. However, the Jazz do like to be up-tempo on opportunities, which is probably a good thing. While Utah ranks ninth in the league in scoring and rebounding (98 ppg and 43 rpg), the team ranks in the bottom-10 in scoring defense (98 ppg). Utah likes a medium tempo. Where it has some success keeping the game in the high-90s – if it gets to be faster than that, Denver gets the advantage because that is the pace it shoots for every time out.
The latest NBA odds show the Jazz favored by 1.5 points, while the total has been posted at 206 points. Denver has not lost consecutive games in nearly three weeks, and escaped by the skin of its teeth in its last home game. Utah has been strong at home lately and is riding a good streak of momentum after beating two division leaders in the last four games. Against that backdrop, and Utah still being one of the tougher arenas for visiting teams, the Jazz are primed to take that next step and move into a top-eight position in the West. If this game gets past 105 points, Denver gets the advantage. Utah should win if it can keep Denver to the high-90s to 100. At home, Utah does much better with tempo than on the road, and that will be the difference in this game.
Final Score Prediction: Jazz 98, Denver 95