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The Denver Nuggets, seemingly in disarray earlier this week, found a way to beat the Utah Jazz in an elimination game Wednesday night. They’ll have to do it again tonight to continue, but it’ll be much more difficult. The two teams will square off in another elimination game tonight at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, the site of two Nuggets blowouts in this series.
Denver would be hard-pressed to get a win in Utah at full strength; yet, they are anything but going into tonight’s game. Nene, the team’s starting center and potential dominant force, went down in game five with an ugly left knee hyperextension, which the team feared was an ACL tear. But Nene’s injury isn’t as serious as initially thought, and he could play Sunday night if the Nuggets can force a game seven back in Denver (via Reuters).
That’s a giant “if,” with Nene’s role being filled by a raw, but serviceable, Johan Petro. The Denver Post says the seven-footer from Paris will have to play huge in the most important game of the year, and he knows it’s an opportunity to show what he can do. “I’ve got to do my job,” Petro tells the Post. “I’ll play hard, defend my man, and I’m going to try and leave everything out there.”
Petro can use his length to be a defensive stopper, but he’s also prone to unnecessary fouls and slow defensive rotation. He’ll likely get the start over Chris “Birdman” Andersen, who the Post says acting coach Adrian Dantley will use to spark the team off the bench.
The Denver Stiffs says the Nuggets have to leave everything on the court tonight since there is no tomorrow if Utah wins, but I’m fairly sure the Nuggets know that. The Nuggets and their fans are probably the only people who believe they can get a series-extending win in Utah to force a game seven. Offshore Insiders, an online betting firm, has the Jazz as five-point favorites tonight, summing up the general consensus.