Our next game is against Division rival, Utah. It's a home game. Of course, they won't play them until Sunday, yeah I know, too long of a wait.
Much like Denver, Utah's been playing without some of their key players, most notably, Boozer. This will be a back-2-back game for the Jazz as well(They play Cavs 1st), so if the Nuggets don't win this game, I'll be very disappointed.
NBA players and coaches seem to pride themselves on downplaying the significance of any regular-season game before March.
Well, consider the Nuggets to be thinking outside the box when it comes to their Northwest Division showdown against the Utah Jazz on Sunday at the Pepsi Center.
"I have no problem calling it a big game," Nuggets coach George Karl said.
The Nuggets (28-15) hold a three-game lead on Utah (Portland is 21/2 back) entering the Jazz's home game tonight against Cleveland, but Denver trails Utah 1-0 in the season series. A Jazz win means the best the Nuggets could do is salvage a split of the season series.
"This is huge here for us," Nuggets guard J.R. Smith said. "Even though we don't have (Carmelo Anthony), we have to come out and win this game. This game could linger until playoff time, and this could be the difference in home-court advantage."
A few circumstances are tilting favorably for the Nuggets, including the continued absence of injured Jazz power forward Carlos Boozer. Utah also could be a bit weary after the marquee matchup with the Cavaliers, while Denver has been idle since Tuesday.
However it's sliced, it's not too early in the season to overplay the significance of this one.
"It's never too early," forward Linas Kleiza said. "It's always a big game when we play Utah, our division rival who has won the division the last few years. We have a great chance to do it this year, so we have to take care of business."
Back in action?
The freak right shoulder injury suffered by Nuggets guard Dahntay Jones in pregame warm-ups Tuesday might ultimately be a nonissue.
Karl expects Jones to try to play Sunday - and he said he'll "probably" start him if he's available - despite initial fears the first-degree separation would keep the guard out a few weeks.
Jones missed the game against Sacramento on Tuesday, but the Nuggets didn't need their defensive stopper in a 118-99 rout of the Kings.
Jones had a follow-up exam Friday with Dr. Steve Traina and also performed agility drills with strength and conditioning coach Steve Hess.
Whether Jones returns, don't expect both Smith and Kleiza to start. Karl replaced Jones with Renaldo Balkman on Tuesday, and probably again would resist the urge to use the offensive-minded Kleiza, who scored 41 in a game against the Jazz last season.
Smith and Kleiza each have started games in Anthony's absence.
"You want to keep your balance of offense and defense among your personality," Karl said. "You put too many offensive players on the court, you'll be too weak defensively."
Smith, who has started the past five games, is starting to adjust to the routine.
"It takes a while to get used to it, but it's just like coming off the bench to me now," Smith said. "As long as I'm in there at the end of the game when it counts, that's all that matters."
Kleiza says he has no preference regarding his role.
"For the 250,000th time, no, it doesn't matter," Kleiza said.
The Nuggets sent out fliers to Western Conference teams endorsing Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Nene and Kenyon Martin as nominees for reserves on the Western Conference All-Star team.
Anthony and Billups are considered to have a strong chance to make the team.
The fliers bear the official 2008-09 All-Star logo for the Feb. 15 game in Phoenix and contain the players' numbers in the form of a cactus. The back of the flier lists notable achievements for each player, such as, for Anthony: "Tied an NBA record for points scored in a quarter with 33 in the third quarter of the Nuggets' 116-105 win vs. Minnesota on 1 2/10."
* The Nuggets are 19-5 when compiling at least 22 assists.
* Martin is averaging 18 points during his past four games.
* Former Nuggets point guard Chucky Atkins entered Friday having not played in the first seven games since being dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
I don't know how bad of an injury Dahntay's was, but if it were up to me, I'd rest him or let him play in limited minutes and start Balkman in his place. But, it's all good as long as we win.
BTW, Kleiza is averaging 20 ppg and shot 67% from the field in his last four games. Meanwhile, JR is averaging 21.5 ppg whilst shooting almost 70% in his last two. Let's keep these two going til' Melo's return.
DENVER (AP)—Chauncey Billups can’t fathom having a game like Nene did Sunday night.
Nene tied a career high with 28 points and sank every one of his dazzling dozen shots in Denver’s 117-97 rout of the Utah Jazz.
“I don’t think I’ll ever go 12-for-12 because I’m going to shoot until I miss,” Billups said.
“If I make, I keep going,” he said. “If I miss, I just pass the ball.”
Coach George Karl wasn’t even aware of just how special a night his big Brazilian forward was having when he had him take a seat with more than six minutes left and the Nuggets comfortably ahead—not that he would have sent his big man back in for individual glory.
Nene wasn’t worried about his stats or even perfection, for that matter.
“When I play, I don’t care too much. I just try to finish hard and I’m surprised after the game to be 12-for-12, whatever, record. I give all the glory to God,” Nene said after tying the franchise mark for shooting percentage.
Bobby Jones also went 12-for-12 for the Nuggets against Golden State back on March 15, 1978. Nene is the third player since the team joined the NBA in 1976-77 to make 10 or more shots without a miss. Kenyon Martin made all 10 of his shots against Chicago on Nov. 23 of this season.
Nene said he wasn’t bummed at all about not staying in to break his career-high points total that he set against Sacramento on April 4, 2007.
“I just worry about helping the team and giving my best,” he said with a big grin.
Karl was worried going in that Denver’s five-day layoff might result in rust, but J.R. Smith quickly put those concerns to rest.
Smith scored 13 of his 22 points in the first quarter, setting the tone for Denver’s rare rout of Utah, which fell 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Nuggets in the Northwest Division with its third straight loss and second in 24 hours.
The Jazz have been without star Carlos Boozer most of the season and he’s not expected back from knee surgery for a couple more weeks. By that time, the Nuggets might have too big of a cushion for the Jazz to have much hope of defending their division title.
Chauncey Billups added 22 points and Linas Kleiza came up with 18 off the bench for the Nuggets, who had lost 10 of their previous 13 against Utah.
The Jazz, 1-10 in the second game of back-to-back sets this season, didn’t get to Denver until just before noon Sunday because of issues with their charter jet that forced them to stay in Salt Lake City after a 102-97 loss to Cleveland on Saturday night.
“We were definitely the more-rested, more-energized team,” Karl said. “Once we fought through the push-and-grab-and-foul game that was going on for about 20 minutes, it finally broke open and fell our way and Nene was very special, J.R. was pretty good offensively.”
The Nuggets quickly built a double-digit lead on the Jazz, thanks to Smith.
The only thing that cooled Smith was a bad foul call that forced him to the bench with 13 points, two fouls and 4:36 left in the first quarter. Smith was whistled for a foul on Paul Millsap even though he slapped the ball, not Millsap.
Smith, who dished out a half-dozen assists, returned in the second quarter and had 16 points at halftime as the Nuggets took a 60-51 lead into the locker room, an advantage they stretched to 20 points in the third quarter.
Smith’s night was over with 7:11 left and the Nuggets ahead 100-81, and less than a minute later, Nene was sent to the sideline, too.
Ronnie Brewer led the Jazz with 16 points, and Deron Williams scored 15, but he was hounded by Dahntay Jones, who returned from a separated shoulder that sidelined him for a game.
“There wasn’t much defensive effort,” Williams said. “They had a lot of easy layups, dunks. They got their confidence going and then the second-quarter 3s started raining down for them.”
That’s the difference between rest and rust.
“They’ve been off since Tuesday,” Williams said. “We knew they were going to have a lot of energy. We just couldn’t match it tonight.”
Good game. JR got it going early and Nene just could not be stopped tonight!!! 12/12? Are you kidding me?
“If I make, I keep going,” he said. “If I miss, I just pass the ball.”
I just love his "team-first" mentality. With that said, I'd like to see Nene take more shots, a lot more please!!