Jazz-Nuggets Preview

The Associated Press

Coming off a rare home loss, Denver Nuggets coach George Karl says he expects to see his team fired up Saturday night.

The Utah Jazz can't be happy to hear that.

The Nuggets try to avoid back-to-back defeats at the Pepsi Center for the first time in almost a year as they host the Jazz, losers of seven of nine in Denver.

While the Nuggets (18-16) have gone 8-14 in opposing arenas, they've thrived on their own court. Denver has averaged 104.9 points in winning 10 of 12 at home, where it had strung together eight consecutive victories before coming up short in a 101-97 loss to Minnesota on Thursday.

"Just move on," Andre Miller, who with 11 points and 10 assists became the eighth player to score 15,000 while also dishing out 7,500 career assists, told the team's official website.

"It's a long season. Obviously it's a game we wanted to win and needed to win and we didn't take advantage of it. We just need to move on from it."

After sitting out Tuesday's 92-78 win over the Los Angeles Clippers due to a strained left Achilles, Ty Lawson had 16 points off the bench Thursday. Denver committed a season low-tying eight turnovers but uncharacteristically lost the rebounding battle 52-39. The Nuggets rank near the top of the league with 46.1 boards per game.

"I thought the guys showed a lot of pride," Karl said Friday after practice. "They understood you don't want those things to happen, but no team plays 82 good games. After playing well, it makes the spike of the high and then the low (more pronounced). There's still a residual attitude. Everybody's (ticked) off, but I think we'll be ready for (Saturday)."

The Nuggets haven't been handed consecutive home losses since a five-game slide Jan. 29-Feb. 9.

Denver and Utah (17-17) have split two matchups this season, with each team winning at home. The Nuggets cruised to a 104-84 victory Nov. 9 before falling 105-103 later that month. The Jazz have given up an average of 110.8 points during their 2-7 skid in Denver.

Utah, though, has recently held its own defensively and is coming off back-to-back victories for the first time since a season-best four-game run Dec. 5-12.

The Jazz beat Minnesota 106-84 on Wednesday, then won 87-80 at Phoenix two nights later. Al Jefferson had 21 points and eight rebounds while Paul Millsap posted 19 and 10 for Utah, which outscored the Suns 60-28 in the lane.

"That's how we've got to play," Millsap said. "We come out and put it all on the floor and good things are going to happen."

Gaining an edge down low Saturday could prove difficult against a Denver team averaging an NBA-best 55.4 points in the paint. The Nuggets outscored the Jazz 112-78 in that department during those two November meetings.

Millsap, averaging 14.6 points and 7.6 rebounds, has been limited to 8.0 and 5.0 versus Denver this season.

Despite Friday's result, the Jazz are 3-9 on the road against fellow Western Conference foes. They're giving up 101.1 points per game as the visiting team - significantly higher than their 95.1 mark at home.

Denver has won 35 of 37 home games when scoring at least 100 points, including 20 in a row.

Utah continues to play without injured point guard Mo Williams (right thumb) and could be missing center Enes Kanter for a second straight night due to a sprained right ankle.