Nuggets Host Jazz In Pivotal Game

By: AP
By: AP

Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko helped lead the Utah Jazz to a season-opening victory over the Denver Nuggets in their most recent matchup.

On Sunday night at the Pepsi Center, the Jazz (25-19) will definitely be without Boozer, and may not have Kirilenko available for a matchup with the Nuggets (28-15).

Boozer, who had 25 points and 14 rebounds in a 98-94 home win on Oct. 29, remains out for at least two more weeks following knee surgery on Jan. 9. Kirilenko, who added 16 points off the bench in that victory, has missed the past two games with an sore right ankle, and his status for Sunday is uncertain.

Utah, which comes in after dropping a 102-97 decision to Cleveland on Saturday, is 3 1/2 games behind Denver and a game in back of Portland in the Northwest Division. The Jazz also enter this game with a 1-7 mark in their last eight away from home.

While Utah has struggled, the Nuggets have played well without their star as Carmelo Anthony has been out since Jan. 7 with a broken right hand.

In his place, though, Linas Kleiza and J.R. Smith have emerged. In Tuesday's 118-99 win over visiting Sacramento, Kleiza scored a season-high 27 points, and Smith had 19 to go with seven rebounds and six assists.

"They were good offensively," Denver coach George Karl said. "LK was great and J.R. made some great passes."

In the last four games, Kleiza has averaged 20.0 points and shot 66.7 percent (32-for-48) from the field. Smith has averaged 21.5 points in the last two games and made 69.6 percent of his shots (16-for-23).

With Kleiza moving his scoring average to 10.6 points, the Nuggets have six players averaging double figures, led by Anthony's 21.1 and Chauncey Billups' 18.9. Smith has averaged a career-best 13.8 points this season.

While going 4-3 without Anthony - who could return next week, the Nuggets also have gone 4-2 at home since Jan. 7, and are 17-6 there in 2008-09.

However, they have lost four straight to Utah and have a 1-4 mark in their last five at home versus the Jazz.

Since replacing Boozer in the lineup on Nov. 22, Utah's Paul Millsap has averaged 18.2 points and 11.4 rebounds despite missing six games with knee problems. Millsap has stepped that up over the past three games with 24.0 points and 14.0 rebounds per contest.

Deron Williams, who had a season-high 16 assists in the loss to Cleveland, has averaged 24.4 points and 10.9 assists over the last seven games. Williams tied Saturday's game at 91 on a layup with 3:28 remaining, but the Jazz missed two 3-pointers that could have tied it in the final minute as Cleveland finished on an 11-6 run over the final 2:41.

"We were right there," Williams said. "We had chances. We just didn't come up with the win."

With Boozer out and Kirilenko possibly missing, the Jazz would add to their combined 120 missed man-games this season. Last season, Utah players missed a combined 45 games.

No one on this season's roster has appeared in every game this season.

Utah has won 10 of the past 12 meetings versus Denver.


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