The Utah Jazz play host to the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night. The Jazz are currently tied for the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Lakers, but they hold the tie-breaker.
With the Nuggets holding on to the third seed in the West, this is a gut-check game for the Jazz, and one that they could really use a win in.
For that to happen, there are two players that must step up in order to beat the Nuggets.
Mo Williams, PG
With Nuggets' point guard Ty Lawson reportedly out for a few weeks with a foot injury, Mo Williams has a chance to step up for the Jazz. Andre Miller is the primary backup to Lawson, so that's who Williams will be primarily matched up against.
Williams is currently averaging just over 12 points and six assists per game. Not gaudy numbers by any means, but numbers that should improve with the absence of Lawson.
Teams that want to make late playoff pushes must have solid play at the point guard position. If the Jazz want to put distance between themselves and the Lakers, Williams will have to step up, not just against the Nuggets but for the rest of the season.
Paul Millsap, PF
With Lawson out, expect the Nuggets to look inside more to take the pressure off the guards. That means more touches will be going to Kenneth Faried, who Millsap will be guarding down low.
Millsap is the better scorer of the two, averaging nearly 15 points per game, compared to Faried's 11.7. However, Faried pulls down nearly two more rebounds per game than Millsap, with the two averaging 9.2 and 7.2 rebounds a game, respectively.
However, each time these two have faced each other this season, Faried has gotten the better of Millsap. The Nuggets are 2-1 this year against the Jazz. Faried averages 18 points per game against the Jazz, compared to Millsap who only averages 10 against the Nuggets.
Millsap has established himself as a quality power forward in the NBA. But when the big boys like Denver come into town, he has to solidify that reputation with solid play. And with the playoffs hanging in the balance, there hasn't been a better time for Millsap to step up and have a big game.