Starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko re-injured his left calf muscle during practice, and will miss the first-round NBA Western Conference playoffs series against the Denver Nuggets.
The Jazz also announced that leading scorer and rebounder, Carlos Boozer is still questionable for game one. Boozer has been deemed a game-time decision with a strained rib cage muscle.
Not having Boozer available could equal a blowout loss for the Jazz and a bad-tone setter for the remainder of the series. Last season, the Lakers had the Jazz down 2-0 and then stole game four in Salt Lake City and eventually eliminated Utah in five.
Boozer’s troubling injury occurred on Tuesday at Golden State, and it was severe enough to keep him out of the lineup in a costly home loss to Phoenix.
Because of that defeat, Utah is now the fifth seed and must go one the road, to battle the Nuggets, a team that defeated Utah 3-1 in the regular season.
Denver also received the news that Kenyon Martin –who missed 19 games with injury—will play in this best-of-seven-series. Adding another worry to Jerry Sloan's growing laundry list of problems.
Sloan says his team has to find a way to overcome the loss of AK, and be ready mentally for what should be an uphill battle for the Jazz.
"That's part of basketball," Sloan said, via Tim Buckley of The Deseret News . "If you go with the mind, 'Let's try to get it over with, so we don't have to play,'" he said, "you're gonna have a tough time."
Joining the list of walking-wounded in Utah is starting center Mehmet Okur. He’s battling a case of Achilles tendonitis and may have to go with a pain-killing injection in order to play Saturday night.
Jazz point guard Deron Williams says he’s hoping for the best, as the team prepares for a Nuggets team that was considered among the league’s elite, before losing eight of their last 16 games.
The high-flyin’ Nuggets dropped from second, to fourth, in just a few weeks time. Despite this late-season swoon and the departure of coach George Karl (due to cancer treatment), Denver is still the favorite to prevail and Williams knows it.
"We want to have a team at full strength, but what can you do about injuries? You can't make a guy play, if they're hurt.”
"Hopefully those guys (Boozer and Okur) will be able to play, so we can have a team at full strength, because I think we're gonna need everybody,” Williams told Buckley.
Without Kirilenko in the lineup, Utah will be without its best defender and will have to rely on a combination of younger players (C.J. Miles, Wes Matthews) to try and slow down the scoring duo of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.
With more than a 130 postseason games under their belts, Billups and Anthony may be too much for the reeling Jazz.
With all of its injury problems and potential matchup problems, it’s hard to figure out a winning scenario for Utah. If there is a glimmer of hope for the Jazz, it lies with fifth-year pro Miles and his defense of Anthony.
Miles won't stop Carmelo but he can make Melo work on the other end by sinking some early jumpers.
Miles was inserted into the starting lineup on March 12 when Kirilenko suffered his calf injury. Since then, Utah has played decent ball, going 10-5 with Miles as the starter. The 23-year-old knows the pressure will be on come Saturday night.
"Just got to step up. I've been playing the position for a while now," said Miles. "This will be my first playoff series as a starter, so I'm just going to go into it and just try to help the team. Whatever I've got to do. I'm going to try to do it. Miles said.