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 and Jazz 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 Portland.
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 night.
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 games overall.
NBA odds makers have Utah as 3.5-point favorites for the contest, while the total is listed at 210.