Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin rolls his eyes and smiles — perhaps a little nervously — when asked about the surging Denver Nuggets.
"They’re back to playing really fast," he said, "and really free."
Jazz vs. NuggetsAt EnergySolutions Arena
Tipoff » 7 p.m.
TV » ROOT Sports
Radio » 1280 AM, 1600 AM, 97.5 FM
Records » Jazz, 12-26; Nuggets, 19-17
Season series » Tied, 1-1
Last meeting » Jazz, 103-93 (Dec. 13)
About the Jazz » They are 6-5 in their last 11 games. ... G/F Gordon Hayward averages 26 points, 8 rebounds and 3.5 assists against Denver this season, but he is questionable (hip flexor). ... In the last four games, G Trey Burke averaged 11.2 points and 6.2 assists. He’s made 17 of 51 field-goal attempts (.333).
About the Nuggets » They have won five straight games. ... They are 8-9 on the road. ... They are 4-4 in their last eight games in Utah. ... G Ty Lawson (17.7) and F Wilson Chandler (12.8) are their top scorers, but Chandler missed Saturday night’s 120-94 win over Orlando with a strained hip.
Corbin and the Jazz face Denver on Monday night.
The Nuggets bring a five-game winning streak to EnergySolutions Arena, which has improved their record to 19-17 and gotten them back into the Western Conference playoff race.
"They are playing extremely well," said Jazz forward Marvin Williams. "We will have to play hard [and] we will have to play hard together against them."
Just two weeks ago, Denver seemed doomed.
On Jan. 1, Philadelphia handed the Nuggets their eighth straight loss. Veteran point guard Andre Miller did not play, and late in the game, he confronted rookie head coach Brian Shaw on the bench.
Miller was initially suspended for two games, although the punishment was rescinded the next day. Still, he has not returned to the team since the incident.
Instead of adding to Shaw’s problems, however, the loss to the 76ers and the confrontation with Miller seemed to refocus his other players. Not only are the Nuggets winning, but they also have been unstoppable.
During the winning streak, Denver averaged 119 points a game. Its average margin of victory: 19 points.
"They have a bunch of veterans who have probably been on teams that started to struggle," said Williams. "They know what it takes to right the ship."
Said Corbin: "They’re trying to speed up the game. A lot of pick-and-rolls. A lot of early shots. They have a lot of guys who can break you down."
Denver’s style of play might have been part of the reason Shaw benched Miller, the 37-year-old former University of Utah star.
With Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson playing point guard, the Nuggets are younger and faster.
While Miller’s strength is experience and the ability to execute a half-court offense, Lawson and Robinson give Shaw the explosiveness and long-range shooting that have seemingly made the Nuggets more effective.
It is unclear whether Miller will ever return to the Nuggets and play for Shaw.
According to the Denver Post, the two have not spoken since the incident, although Miller has worked out at the team’s practice facility, perhaps because Denver is trying to trade him.
"You never want to be in a situation like that," Shaw told the newspaper. "I have so much respect for Andre Miller — been a fan of his since he was in college. ... I don’t want to be the guy that put him in this place. But [this] is where we are right now and we just have to go forward."
Corbin has never coached Miller and does not know him. But he remains a fan of the 15-year veteran.
"It’s unfortunate for Andre," Corbin said. "... Everything I’ve heard about him is he’s a really nice guy — a team guy. It’s just unfortunate it had to happen how it happened. You just don’t want a guy who’s had a pretty good career have it come to the end with something like this being part of it."
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