Counting on a healthy Carlos Boozer and better results on the road, the Utah Jazz open their 2009-10 NBA season on the road in Denver at the Pepsi Center against the Nuggets.
Utah’s disappointing 2008-09 campaign can be attributed to injuries and a lack of defense. The Jazz allowed 100.9 points per game — tied for 18th in the NBA - and finished 20th in opponent’s field goal percentage (.464).
Yet, Utah opted to stay as still as a statue this summer. The Jazz will return 12 players from last season in a league whose top contenders all made significant additions.
Utah will get a quick take on how that will work when it opens the season Wednesday night at Denver, another Western Conference contender that basically is standing pat.
The Jazz is counting on a return to All-Star form by Carlos Boozer, who has missed a third of the team’s games during his five seasons in Utah because of injuries. However, Boozer has made it clear he doesn’t want to play for the team. Utah’s inability to bring closure to that situation could dog them well into the season.
At full strength, the Jazz feature an outstanding offense led by the playmaking ability and explosiveness of heady point guard Deron Williams. Boozer and Mehmet Okur create matchup difficulties because of Boozer’s little 12-foot rainbow jumper and the ability to finish at the basket with either hand.
It’s the other end of the floor where Utah falls short. The club was 12-31 when allowing 100 points or more and 36-3 when holding opponents under the century mark.
Denver is coming off the best season in the history of the franchise. After a run to the Conference Finals, the playoffs seem pretty much assured. But there are some question marks. Depth was a potential problem last season, and two of the Nuggets top nine rotation players are now gone.
Denver watched starter Dahntay Jones sign with Indiana as a free-agent and key reserve Linas Kleiza head to Greece. Despite those departures, the Nuggets return Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Nene and Kenyon Martin. However, J.R. Smith won’t play in the first seven games because he was suspended for a reckless driving incident.
Denver doesn’t have the depth or reasonable early schedule to downplay Smith’s absence.
Anthony still leads the way for the Nuggets. However, ever since Billups replaced Allen Iverson, they have been on a tear. Denver‘s biggest strengths revolve around its starting five.
Utah had the worst road record among West playoff teams last season (15-29, including the postseason) and it lost both meeting last season at Pepsi Center by a combined 30 points.
The Nuggets have cashed 10 of their last 11 as home favorites of 6½ to nine points and the chalk is 22-10-1 in the past 33 series scuffles.
Four of the last five encounters in Colorado have ended on the high side. The Jazz has jumped the number in 20 of 29 as dogs overall and topped the ‘total’ in 20 of 26 as road short-enders.
Most offshore books opened their odds with Denver as 6½-point favorites, with the ‘total’ set at 210.