Two teams in excellent form go at it in the Mountain Time Zone on Thursday as the Utah Jazz make the short flight from Salt Lake City to take on the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets are proving to be quite a thorn in the side of the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors. Denver has won 5 straight and 7 of their last 10 and have cut Golden State’s lead atop the Western Conference to 1/2 game following the Warriors upset loss at Miami. Denver has been particularly nasty on their home court going 27-4 SU/22-9 ATS and have improved their road play somewhat. At least they’re now over .500 on the road (albeit by a single game) at 15-14 SU but are only 11-18 against the spread.
The Utah Jazz have started to reprise a strange pattern every year. It seems like every season now the Jazz start the season slow and come up like gangbusters after the midway point. Such has been the case this season. On December 1, 2018 the Jazz were 11-12 and going nowhere. Since then they’re 22-14 and in sixth place in the West (pending the outcome of Wendesday’s home game against the LA Clippers). The Jazz have been doing it with defense and allowing just 106.7 PPG rank as the #4 scoring defense in the NBA. Like the Nuggets, the Jazz have been solid at home this year but have struggled on the road. They’re 14-15 SU/15-13-1 ATS away from the Vivent Smart Home Arena.
The Nuggets have a very important road trip coming up following this game and Saturday’s home game against the New Orleans Pelicans. They play at San Antonio on Monday, at the Staples Center against the LA Lakers on Wendesday and a crucial game against the Golden State Warriors on Friday. They’ll play Golden State on the road once again before the season ends (April 2) and assuming that these teams keep playing the way they have been this season this could decide the Western Conference.
Denver is in pretty good shape atop the Northwest Division. Oklahoma City is 4 games back with red hot Portland 4.5 games back. The Jazz are 8.5 games back and aren’t likely to challenge for the top honors in the division. They’ll be happy just holding on to a playoff position. The Nuggets have been nasty against divisional rivals this season going 8-1 SU/7-2 ATS. Utah, meanwhile, is 5-7 SU/ATS against Northwest Division rivals. Utah enters this game having won 3 of 5 and 4 of 7 but have covered 5 straight and 6 of 7. Denver shoot off a three game road losing streak at the beginning of the month to win their last 5 going 4-1 ATS.
Tough spot for the Jazz–they played a hard fought game against the LA Clippers at home last night and now they have to step up in class against the rested Nuggets just 24 hours later. The altitude isn’t an issue for the Jazz, of course, but they’ve struggled bigtime against the Nuggets at Denver. Denver has won the last 5 meetings at home against the Jazz both SU and ATS. Laying what looks to be a reasonable price (Denver was -9.5 against the Clippers last week to give you some perspective) we’ll back the Nuggets. Also worth nothing–the last 5 games in Denver and 8 of the last 10 head to head have gone ‘Under’ the total. We talked about Utah’s defense above but the Nuggets are no slouches either allowing just 106.9 PPG good for 6th place in the NBA.