After January in which Utah was on the road for 11 of its 16 games, including four of its last five, the Jazz are finally back home in the comfortable confines of Vivint Arena for an extended stay. 

Utah opens up a six-game homestand on Wednesday night when it welcomes Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets to town — a game that has a little more meaning than it did a month ago. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. MST on ESPN.

Just a month ago, Utah took down Denver 115-109 in what was a career game for Bojan Bogdanovic, finishing with 26 points and 13 rebounds. That put the Jazz as the third seed in the West while the Nuggets were the seventh seed, nine games behind. 

Wednesday’s game marks how much a difference a month can make. 

Utah is the current four-seed while the Nuggets are the six-seed, but only 1.5 games separate the two in the standings. 

The past month was a rough one for the Jazz, but largely due to situations outside their control. There isn’t a team in the league whose roster has been more decimated by a combination of injuries and health and safety protocols. 

From injuries to all-stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert and nearly two-thirds of the team — including head coach Quin Snyder — being placed in health and safety protocols during that time, the Jazz were merely a team trying to adapt to the circumstances of the month rather than focusing on wins and losses. 

“This isn’t about winning and losing,” head coach Quin Snyder said. “This is about committing to the things that allow you to win. … I have confidence we can do those things.”

The Jazz have played shorthanded at multiple times throughout the season and still emerged victorious — but the way the calendar was set up in January didn’t allow room for error. 

Eleven of the 16 games came against teams currently in the playoff picture of either conference. The Jazz also had three back-to-backs, all of which were on the road. 

The schedule was challenging, by far the most brutal stretch of the season for Utah, but their big three of Mitchell, Gobert, and Mike Conley combined to play in just four games together. 

“We had COVID. We’ve had a lot of things going on. … We’re just trying to survive,” Rudy Gay said.

Unfortunately, Wednesday night doesn’t get much easier. Not only are Mitchell, Gobert, and Snyder all out, but Joe Ingles is lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL Sunday night against Minnesota. 

Denver is no stranger to injuries, with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. both out for the foreseeable future. But Jokic, the reigning MVP, has played like a superstar of late while Aaron Gordon and Will Barton have elevated their games. 

Utah (30-21, 15-10 home / No. 4 Western Conference)
*113.5 Points Per Game (No. 2 in NBA)
*115.3 Offensive Rating (No. 1 in NBA)

*107.8 Points Per Game (No. 13 in NBA)
*109.5 Defensive Rating (No. 14 in NBA)

*Bojan Bogdanovic: 17.9 points / 4.1 rebounds / 38.5% 3P-shooting
*Mike Conley: 14.2 points / 5.3 assists / 3.0 rebounds / 42.8% 3P-shooting
*Jordan Clarkson: 15.5 points / 3.5 rebounds / 26.6 minutes

Denver (28-22, 15-13 away / No. 6 Western Conference)
*109.2 Points Per Game (No. 14 in NBA)
*111.4 Offensive Rating (No. 10 in NBA)

*107.4 Points Per Game (No. 11 in NBA)
*109.7 Defensive Rating (No. 15 in NBA)

*Nikola Jokic 25.9 points / 13.8 rebounds / 7.8 assists
*Will Barton: 15.3 points / 4.8 rebounds / 4.2 assists / 37.5% 3P-shooting
*Aaron Gordon: 14.5 points / 5.6 rebounds / 51.9% shooting

Jordan Clarkson vs. Will Barton
— For the fourth time this season, Utah and Denver will square off — but what makes it unique is that in each matchup this year, one of the teams has always been battling some sort of ailments. That’s why the battle between Clarkson and Barton should be special as both of them are capable of catching fire and leading their team to a win.

QUESTIONABLE — Trent Forrest (Right Ankle Sprain) 
QUESTIONABLE — Hassan Whiteside (Low Back Strain)
OUT — Rudy Gobert (Left Calf Strain)
OUT — Danuel House (Health & Safety Protocols)
OUT — Joe Ingles (Left Knee Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear)
OUT — Donovan Mitchell (Concussion Protocol)

Time: 8:00 p.m. MST
Location: Vivint Arena / Salt Lake City, UT
Radio: 1280 The Zone 


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