Once again the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz face off with both teams missing an all-star. Carmelo Anthony will miss his eighth straight game for the Nuggets and Carlos Boozer will miss his 32nd straight game for the Jazz.
Paul Millsap has put up huge numbers in Boozer’s absence putting up over 18 points and 11 rebounds. They are not hollow numbers either. A quick perusal of 82games.com shows us how effective Millsap has been. The Jazz (Jazz’s?, Jazzs’?, Jazz’?) offensive efficiency with Millsap on the court is 4.9 points better than when he is off the court and their defensive efficiency is 6.3 points better with Millsap on the floor than without him. Boozer’s on court/off court efficiencies pace in comparison to Millsap’s. The combination of Millsap’s net efficiency is +11.1 while Boozer is a -4.6. Millsap’s production has Jazz fans, and probably their front office, wondering if they should ship Boozer out of town by the trade deadline.
The Nuggets have not been quite so lucky in replacing Melo. Both J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza have been very inconsistent in his absence. Both had great offensive games against the Sad-ramento Kings. Hopefully they can both build on those performances.
From a matchup standpoint I think I would like to see Nene guard Millsap as I think he might be a little too strong for Kenyon. I think Kenyon is also better suited than Nene to cover Okur when he is on the perimeter. Okur does have an underrated post game though and Kenyon would have to make sure he keeps Okur from getting good position when he goes down to the block.
Deron Williams has typically had big games against the Nuggets. The scuttlebutt is that Dahntay Jones will return tonight from his slightly separated shoulder he suffered during warm-ups against the Kings (and the same article says Melo is shooting without pain and should hit his goal of playing Friday against the Charlotte Bobcats). If Jones returns to the starting lineup look for him to guard Williams. He has done a good job of playing physical defense with Jose Calderon and Chis Paul and hopefully he can do the same against Williams.
The Jazz played a tough game last night against the Cleveland Cavaliers and they continue to struggle on the road. Even George Karl has give his blessing on calling tonight’s January matchup a big game (although he did not actually call it a big game himself). If the Nuggets lose tonight they basically have no chance at winning the tie breaker or even just splitting the season series.
Oops, I forgot the links that no one ever clicks on…
Featured Blog: SLC Dunk
Previous Matchup: Game 1 – Den 94 Utah 98