The Denver Nuggets (36-26 SU, 29-30-3 ATS)
and Utah Jazz (32-29 SU, 26-34-1 ATS) meet for the first time since they both
traded away their respective superstars on Thursday night at EnergySolutions
Arena (10:30 PM ET, TNT).
It wasn’t long ago the Nuggets
were considered contenders in the Western Conference, but both clubs are headed
for at least some degree of rebuilding now that Carmelo Anthony is in New York
and Deron Williams is a few miles away in New Jersey.
That being the case, Denver might want to
simply re-tool if the returns following Anthony’s departure are any indication
of what’s in store. The Nuggets are a sparkling 5-0 ATS (4-1 SU) in their first
five games since dealing Carmelo, and the collective sigh of relief is felt
every time they take the floor – especially at Pepsi Center.
Denver has been playing solid opposition,
too. The Nuggets won against Memphis and Atlanta, picked up a 14-point win over
Boston, and their only loss was an excusable one-point overtime defeat at
What’s impressive about Denver’s recent run
is it’s been doing it without former team leader Chauncey Billups as well as
Anthony. The Nuggets might be without a star player, but their depth is strong.
Denver is two deep in the rotation at every position, although Danilo Gallinari
(toe) is out until next week. At the very least, George Karl has options if
someone isn’t going well on a particular night.
Utah, on the other hand, is headed in the
other direction without Williams, even if it was in a tailspin before it
shipped him to the Nets. The Jazz are 1-3 SU and against the number without
Williams, including their 107-102 home loss to the Celtics (-4.5) on Monday
Al Jefferson went for 28 points and 19
rebounds against Boston, and Utah needs more games like that if it’s to turn
things around. Mehmet Okur (lower back strain) could return soon, but even with
the big Turk in the lineup, the Jazz are lacking an elite offensive player now
that Williams (and Carlos Boozer before him) is gone.
Speaking of the aforementioned tailspin, Utah
is a dismal 5-16 SU and a money-draining 6-15 ATS in its last 21 games and is
1.5 games behind Memphis for eighth place in the West standings.
Last season, the Jazz were one of the
sharpest spread wagers in the league. Now they’re headed for the draft lottery
and can’t string paydays together: Utah hasn’t covered in back-to-back games
since its 101-90 win as 6.5-point faves at Cleveland on December 20.
The teams have split two meetings SU and ATS
at Pepsi Center this season, but both contests should be taken with a grain of
salt after the big trades that took place. The Nuggets (-3.5) rolled past the
Jazz 110-88 back on October 27 and Utah (+9) returned the favor with a 113-106
victory on February 4.
If there’s something to take from the
previous meeting it’s that both centers fared well on the inside. Jefferson
went for 28 points and 10 boards on 12 of 20 shooting in the win for the Jazz,
while Nene scored 28 points of his own on an efficient 10 of 12 from the floor.
That should contribute to the game playing
‘over’ the total on Thursday, and the trends back up our assessment. First in
the NBA in scoring (107.3 PPG) and offensive efficiency (109.4), the Nuggets
are 9-2 O/U in their last 11 games on the road, and 13-7 O/U in their last 20
NBA odds makers have Utah as 3.5-point favorites
for the contest, while the total is listed at 210.