The Utah Jazz paid a visit to Denver three weeks ago and left disappointed, having their four-game winning streak snapped while slipping into third place in the Northwest Division.
They’ll make their return to the Mile High City as the NBA’s hottest team.
Utah (31-18) looks to win its 10th consecutive game for the first time in nearly nine years on Wednesday against the Nuggets, who have fallen behind the Jazz in the league’s tightest division.
Denver beat Utah 120-109 on Jan. 17 in their only meeting this season, but the Jazz have since reeled off nine straight wins by an average of 13.7 points. The last time the Jazz won at least 10 in a row was from April 2-18, 1999, when they won 11 straight.
Deron Williams has been the key to Utah’s recent run. The third-year point guard is averaging 19.0 points and 11.7 assists during the team’s winning streak, and had his eighth straight double-double on Monday as the Jazz routed New Orleans, which came into the game with the West’s best record, 110-88.
Williams had 29 points on 11-of-13 shooting while dishing out 11 assists. He also limited Hornets point guard Chris Paul, who beat out Williams to an All-Star berth on the West squad, to a season-low six points.
“He came out tonight to send a message and I think that message got sent across,” said Carlos Boozer, who had 19 points and a season high-tying 17 rebounds.
Williams is averaging 25.7 points and 12.7 assists in his last three trips to Denver.
Kyle Korver tied a season high with 20 points against New Orleans, the most he’s scored since being acquired from Philadelphia on Dec. 29. He had six 3-pointers on Monday, helping the Jazz set a team record with 14 made from beyond the arc.
Utah has made 41.7 percent of its 3-pointers during its winning streak.
The Jazz have also tightened up defensively. They had allowed 100.6 points per game in their first 40 contests, but have yielded an average of just 92.1 points during their run.
The Nuggets (29-18) come in one game behind the Jazz in the Northwest Division, but have also played well of late. They’ve won three in a row and seven of their last 10 since beating Utah on Jan. 17.
The team’s three losses, though, had come on the road to Western Conference powers Dallas, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Lakers. But Denver got a big road win on Monday, topping Portland 105-103 in overtime.
“We had a lot of tough situations we could have given on in and never did,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “It had a lot of playoff attitude to it.”
Anthony and Iverson are two of the top five scorers in the NBA, averaging a combined 52.5 points. But what’s made the Nuggets more formidable has been the emergence of third-year forward Linas Kleiza.
The Jazz should remember Kleiza especially well—he scored a career-high 41 against them three weeks ago in place of the injured Kenyon Martin.
“It was definitely a special night,” Kleiza said after the 120-109 victory. “I will remember this night for the rest of my life.”
Kleiza hasn’t let his play slip since then. He’s averaging 19.4 points in his last 10 games, shooting 40.0 percent from 3-point range.
Center Marcus Camby tied a career high with 11 blocks against the Jazz, but he’s missed Denver’s past two contests with a left knee contusion. It’s unknown if he’ll return against Utah.
Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko is also questionable after sitting out Monday’s game with flu-like symptoms.