The Wounded Animal
The loss of Mehmet Okur to a ruptured left achilles tendon has exacted both an emotional toll on the Jazz and left them with young third-year big man Kyrylo Fesenko as their starting center in Game 2. "Wounded animal" was a characterization used more than once in the circuit of interviews at the Pepsi Center on Monday morning. "A wounded animal is a dangerous animal," Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups said. "[The Jazz] still have some players who can beat you. They have some players who really weren't getting an opportunity to play and now they will get that opportunity, and they're going to be hungry." "They're backed up into a bit of a corner," Nuggets guard J.R. Smith said.
Adjustments on Anthony
The understanding from both squads is that Utah will combat Carmelo Anthony much more physically. "They're try to get me frustrated, try to beat me up a little bit," Anthony said. "I know it's coming. I just want to get ready for it and stay composed, not let them try to get in my head, which I know they'll try to do." C.J. Miles will assume the bulk of the defensive work against Anthony. "We can't let him be the initiator every time," Miles said. "Wesley and I sat down and talked about yesterday before practice about how we want to play him -- just try to get up and force him further out on the floor. He likes that mid-range area. He made a lot of jump shots last game and we want to make him take longer shots. We want to be up on him and make him take more than one or two dribbles to get into his moves and his shots." On a different note, Adrian Dantley made reference both on Sunday and today that, in some respect, Anthony has caught a break in this series by not having to face off against Andrei Kirilenko. Asked to comment on his coach's assessment, Anthony replied, "Next question."
Meet Kyrylo Fesenko, Starting Center
The 23-year-old big man has played a total of 408 minutes in the 2009-10 season. By virtue of Mehmet Okur's season-ending injury, Fesenko has been thrust into Utah's starting lineup. Opportunity or liability? Fesenko was a bit reticent, clearly nervous, but cautiously excited about the chance to play. As he began his response to the first question, Fesenko quickly excused himself to spit out his gum. "Just trying to be respectful," he said sheepishly. He then spoke about the huge chance he has to contribute to a team that desperately needs a defensive presence in the middle. "It means a lot to me," Fesenko said of the opportunity. "It means that coach really trusts me. I don't know, I'm speechless." Fesenko will have the daunting task of trying to contain Nene defensively. "The biggest challenge is that he's very quick," Fesenko said. "All his spin moves. That's going to be very tough for me. I've played against him and I fouled out in about 10 minutes." Fesenko also appreciates that he's not alone. He doesn't need to match Okur's offensive output and his primary responsibility will be helping to wall off the paint from a Denver team that destroyed the Jazz inside in Game 1. "I think I'm ready," Fesenko said. "I feel very confident about tonight's game. I might not score 45 points, but I know that I'll bust my ass on defense." Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said that Fesenko should embrace the starting role. "That's what you hope for as a player," Sloan said. "This is about as good a setting as you would want to have an opportunity to play and play well."