Season Series: Nuggets 3-1
*This is just one of the eight matchup's in round one - click below to see a preview for all eight *
The Denver Nuggets didn’t finish the season off the way the would have liked.
The Nuggets losing against the Spurs wasn’t so bad, but the loss against the Suns put them into the 4th seed with how the season finished off in the West. Yeah, they still have home-court advantage, but they are playing against one of the toughest teams in the league in the Utah Jazz.
Needless to say, this is going to be one heck of a series.
Ever since coming into the league Carmelo Anthony has been dominant and has help improve his Denver Nuggets more and more each year. Why the Nuggets at one point picked up Allen Iverson was beyond me, but the best move they have made was getting rid of the guy. He is one skilled dude, I mean look at his highschool football tape for one. Unfortunately though, the guy is way past his prime and when the Nuggets let him go, they got that much better.
It’s not just "Melo" though, it’s a cast of stars with Chauncey Billups who puts up almost 20 a game and J.R. Smith who’s just above fifteen. Nene Hilaro and Keynon Martin chip in for 25+ per night while helping Denver remain dominant on the boards. It doesn’t stop there either. Add Aaron Affialo, Ty Lawson, Chris “the Birdman" Anderson, and even Johan Petro has come out of no where while Martin was nursing injures. Martin had suffered a knee injury after missing 18 games but came back somewhat early and unexpected at the end of the season which is going to help the Nuggets in the playoffs ten-fold. Problem is, the Utah Jazz are good. As stated below, it's not about Johnny Stockton and Malone anymore. It’s Williams and Boozer running the show and running it well.
Personally, I am looking more forward to this series than any other one in the NBA’s first round of the playoffs. This team has been great all season long (minus the two losses near the end). They did have a couple losses grouped together through-out the season which is something they have to avoid against Utah, but considering the Nuggets are 34-7 on their home court, it’s going to get mighty interesting. This is only because the Jazz are 32-9 on their home court. Do you smell game seven? I do.
The Utah Jazz are not the boring team that no one liked to watch when John Stockton and Karl Malone ran the show years ago.
Now you’ve got Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams, who’ve taken their place and made Utah Basketball interesting again. I only say this because fans outside of Utah during the Stockton-Malone era hated it—at least everyone I know did. Then again, I don’t know anyone from Utah. You also cannot forget about Mehmet Okur in the mix with Andrei Kirilenko. Both Okur and Kirilenko have been battling injuries as the season has came to a close (Okur – Achilles, Kirilenko – Calf). I’d be extremely surprised if both don’t suit up and play in the first game of the playoffs, but don’t expect them to be at 100% both mentally and physically.
In the two-month span from January 9th – March 10th the Jazz played 19 games, winning 17 with their only losses coming against the Nuggets and Lakers.
During that time they beat Miami, Cleveland, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Phoenix, Denver, and Portland—and Dallas twice. All of those teams are in the playoffs and Cleveland, Denver, and Dallas are contenders to win it all. The Jazz would not be able to beat the teams they have without the four previous mentioned players, but it doesn’t end there.
C.J. Miles and Paul Millsap combined for over 20 points per game while Millsap matches Kirilenko in the block department. The Jazz wanted one more piece to complete the puzzle that will get them to the NBA Finals for the first time since losing back-to-back appearances against the Bulls in 1996-97 and 1997-98, but they traded Ronnie Brewer early in the season to Memphis and he had helped by leading the team in steals.
From 1983-84 to 2002-03, over 20 straight seasons the Jazz were in the playoffs before failing to for three years. They have, however, bounced back with what is now their fourth consecutive play-off berth. After getting worse each year (lost in conference final, then 2nd-round, then 1st round over the last three years), the Jazz will look to get back to winning in the playoffs and hopefully do something Malone and Stockton never could—win it all.
TheCoach’s Pick: Nuggets in SEVEN