Jazz need aggressiveness, confidence in Denver
Five things to watch during tonight's Jazz-Nuggets game at the Pepsi Center:
1. To be successful, the Jazz have to attack the basket more aggressively than they did on Tuesday night against the Lakers. Utah starters shot only one free throw in over 117 minutes and made Pau Gasol look like Bill Russell. Imagine if suspended Andrew Bynum had played, too. The Jazz need point guard Devin Harris to penetrate and create open opportunities for himself and others. Al Jefferson, who missed 14 of 16 shots against the Lakers, must be effective and occupy Nene.
2. When Denver coach George Karl plays point guards Ty Lawson and Andre Miller in the same backcourt, which he did successfully in a season-opening win at Dallas, the Jazz must punish them. Neither Lawson nor Miller, at this stage of his career, should be able to keep Gordon Hayward, C.J. Miles or Raja Bell from going where they want to go. (Note: This is not a knock on Miller, who is a terrific player and professional. But he will find himself at a physical disadvantage against the Jazz's wings).
3. It would be story-book if Colorado product Alec Burks got to play some meaningful minutes in his homecoming game, although Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin obviously has other concerns.
4. The Jazz must defend the three-point line and rebound against the Nuggets. Denver fired up 27 three-pointers against the Mavericks (making 10) and always pounds the glass. The Nuggets' rebounding often keys their offense because it results in transition baskets and provides second-chance opportunities.
5. The Jazz have to believe they can win. After going 8-20 down the stretch last season and being blown away by the Lakers, who were playing their third game in three nights, Utah's confidence level is surely sagging. Watch the opening five minutes. The Jazz will likely need to survive an early burst of energy by the Nuggets, who are playing their home opener.
-- Steve Luhm
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