Jazz-Nuggets Preview

Despite opening the season without the faces of their respective

franchises, neither the Denver Nuggets nor the Utah Jazz considered

themselves to be rebuilding.

So far, both have been proven right.

The Northwest Division rivals will look to continue their

surprising starts when they meet for the second time this season

Sunday night in Denver.

The Nuggets played well at the end of last season after trading

Carmelo Anthony to New York and they have carried that over into

2011-12. Denver (8-4) has won six of eight including its last two

games after defeating Miami 117-104 at home Friday.

Ty Lawson returned after missing the previous game with a foot

sprain and scored 24 points to go along with nine assists in the

win over the Heat, while Nene finished with 17 points and 12

rebounds.

The Nuggets shot 55.1 percent overall and 12 of 25 from 3-point

range as their up-tempo offense paid dividends.

“My emphasis at every timeout was don’t stop running,” coach

George Karl said. “Try to run every possession.”

That style has been very effective for the Nuggets, who lead the

Western Conference with 104.8 points per game and have shot better

than 55 percent in four of their last six contests.

Lawson, who is averaging 17.1 points, is shooting 52.2 percent

on the season and 60 percent over his last three games.

“We’re trying to stay under the radar,” Lawson, who was 9 of 11

from the field Friday with both misses coming from 3-point range,

told the Nuggets’ official website. “We don’t need all the press.

We’re just going to try to get in the playoffs and make a lot of

noise.”

Denver has won six of its last seven home meetings with Utah,

including a 117-100 victory Dec. 28, when Nene had 25 points.

While Utah (7-4) also dealt a key player last season in Deron

Williams, it is also playing well after a slow start. The Jazz have

won six of seven, with the only loss coming in overtime against the

Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

The Jazz bounced back from that defeat Saturday with a 107-94

home victory over Williams and New Jersey. Al Jefferson scored 20

points and Paul Millsap added 18 with 12 boards and four

steals.

It was only the fourth time this season Utah, which is averaging

93.6 points, scored at least 100.

“We want to make sure we push (the offense) early,” coach Tyrone

Corbin said. “It allows us to get into our offensive sets a lot

sooner. … We’re a team that is capable of running.”

While the Jazz scored a lot Saturday, defense drives their

success. They are limiting opponents to 89.1 points per game this

month.

“It starts with defense,” said Jefferson, who is averaging a

team-high 18.8 points on the season and has three blocks in each of

his last two games. “When you get turnovers, turnovers lead to fast

breaks and to easy baskets and that gets our confidence up and

opens up everything.”

Utah’s defense could be in for a challenge Sunday. Denver has

scored at least 103 points in each of the last 10 games in this

series.