NBA Playoffs: Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz are the Teams to Watch Today

Bobby A. DruittContributor IApril 19, 2009

DENVER - MARCH 05:  J.R. Smith #1 of the Denver Nuggets awaits action against the Portland Trail Blazers during NBA action at the Pepsi Center on March 5, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Trail Blazers 106-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

After the thrilling start to the NBA Playoffs yesterday we are left with a few snoozers.  No doubt David Stern and his constituents wanted to start the tournament off with a bang; if you notice, all the tough and most compelling matchups were played on opening day. 

Typical Stern.  The best series may have started yesterday however there are still some good series left to watch in the NBA Playoffs.

Arguably the best series to kick off today will be the one between the Denver Nuggets and the New Orleans Hornets.  The Nuggets really have everything to prove and lose this year.

Carmelo Anthony, for all of his success, has never led his team past the first round—for starters.  After trading away Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups this season, and finishing with the second seed in the West, the Nuggets really have to show up this year. 

The re-emergence of J.R. Smith and "Bird man" Andersen (even in some respect, Kenyon Martin), has this team built and poised to make a deep run this year.  Expect Smith and Andersen to be the difference makers in this game. 

The keys to whether the Nuggets can pull this game off will rest on their ability to help each other out on Defense and their decision making on Offense.  For the Hornets, they cannot rely solely on Chris Paul today. 

Other guys (West, Stojakovic, and Chandler) will have to step up for them to have a chance today.  The only hope they have is that Paul does have the ability to take over games as long as the score is close enough.

The other "must-see" series kicking off today is the one between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Utah Jazz.  This matchup pits old rivals Phil Jackson and Jerry Sloan against each other and I think that will be key to the tone this series will adopt as it progresses. 

Jackson has gotten the better of Sloan in recent times but I fully expect Sloan to unveil a new bag of tricks for the Zen Master today.  Kobe Bryant, although starting to show signs of an aging body, still has enough juice to take over any game at any point in time. 

There will be no real defense for Kobe today.  What the Jazz need to do today is to take away the effectiveness of Paul Gasol, Andrew Bynum and, Lamar Odom.  No doubt a tough task but a more efficient strategy than trying to shut down Kobe Bryant all game long.

If the Jazz can solve the massive front-court of the Lakers, they will have a chance to win this game and ultimately the series.  The undersized Jazz will need big games from Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Jarron Collins, the "Bigs off the bench" and most importantly, Andrei Kirilenko. 

If Kirilenko can find his defensive form today, expect the Jazz to put up a good fight.  There is no stopping Deron Williams or the Jazz offense so this game (and series) will be determined by how well the Jazz play defense.

The two matchups analyzed above should be a lot of fun to watch today.  Definitely get your popcorns ready, free your shedule today, and make sure you enjoy the show.  Feel free to share your opinion about the NBA games tonight.  I will be writing more articles as the playoffs continue.