Brooklyn Nets at Denver Nuggets Preview
The Denver Nuggets are preparing to host the Brooklyn Nets in the second game of a TNT doubleheader on Thursday night. Both teams come into the matchup with hopes of washing the awful taste of their most recent losses out of their mouths.
The Nuggets (7-3) let Trae Young run wild on their court as Denver fell 125-121 to the Hawks. The 125 points were the most the Nuggets have allowed an opponent to score this season. The Nugget’s defensive effort has been inconsistent this season, and the game against the Hawks was a culmination of their poor play on that end during their losses.
“In our three losses this year we’ve defended no one,” coach Michael Malone said after the loss. “Trae Young came in here and did exactly what we knew he was going to do.”
It’s been worse for the Nets. They come into this game with a record of 4-6 and two straight losses. They allow the second-most points per game (121.4) and sit at 26th in defensive efficiency. Kyrie Irving is putting up impressive individual numbers, but who cares if the Nets can’t guard anyone and have a chance at missing the playoffs if they don’t right the ship.
Time: 10:30 PM ET
Arena: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
Nets: Kevin Durant (O), Caris Levert (Q)
Nuggets: Malik Beasley (Q), Bol Bol (O)
Brooklyn Nets Starting Lineup
Tough break for the Nets. They led by as many as 15 in their game against the Utah Jazz but couldn’t hold on when the Jazz ramped up the defensive effort in the fourth quarter. The Nets only scored one basket in the final three minutes of the game.
Irving scored 27 points, but struggled from the field, shooting 10-for-33 on his field goals and 2-for-12 on 3-pointers. Spencer Dinwiddie contributed 21 points and Deandre Jordan had 15 points and 17 rebounds.
“I thought we had two bad stretches: the beginning of the third quarter, beginning of the fourth quarter.” Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said.
Irving’s new journey in Brooklyn has gotten off to a shaky start. It’s tough to place any of the blame on Irving himself, he’s played well and the Nets have dealt with injuries to key players, and are missing their biggest piece (Kevin Durant). Irving is averaging 29.7 points per game, 5.3 rebounds and seven assists. His usage and shot attempts have increased–he’s attempting a career-high 23.2 field goals per game, but his efficiency has dipped. He’s shooting 44 percent from the field, tied for the second-lowest mark in his career and 34 percent from the 3-point line, the second-lowest of his career.
But Irving’s decreased efficiency isn’t the biggest problem, the team’s defense is. Brooklyn will have to clean up their defense to keep from sliding any further down the standings.
Denver Nuggets Starting Lineup
The Nuggets were a much improved defensive team last season, a big reason they took the next leap forward and became one of the league’s best teams. They still have a good defense (8th in the league) the problem is just how bad their defense has looked in their three losses. Tuesday was a prime example. Young gave Denver 42 points and even pulled off a nutmeg on Will Barton that led to a jumper he drained in front of the Nuggets bench, who he proceeded to stare down. The Nuggets let the Hawks, who have been without their second-best player, John Collins, shoot 53 percent from the field and 44 percent on 3s.
Denver’s season numbers on the defensive end of the floor aren’t bad–it’s their offense that has lagged behind, but they should find encouragement in winning games when they struggle on the offensive end of the floor.
Nikola Jokic is starting to come around but still looks a tad bit out of shape. More concerning than his conditioning is the fact that Jokic seems to have had his ability to hit 3-pointers stolen from him. He’s shooting a miserable 22 percent from behind the arc and opponents are starting to give him the “sag off” treatment. He hasn’t been able to make teams pay for dropping back and until he gets back on track with his outside shot I don’t see anything changing about the way he’s being guarded right now.
The Nuggets should be fine, they have an almost identical team from last year and coach Malone won’t let the importance of defense go ignored. Denver’s most-used lineup of Paul Milsap, Barton, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray and Jokic have a net rating of plus-15.8, which is good for fifth among lineups that have spent a minimum of 90 minutes or more on the court together, per NBA.com advanced stats.
Denver is still a contender and has the advantage in this matchup against a team that is still trying to integrate Irving into their schemes.
Key Player Matchups
Kyrie Irving vs. Jamal Murray
I expect some cross-matching to go on between this matchup and Dinwiddie versus Harris. Murray and Irving have some history together. During a November game last season, when Irving was still wearing Celtic green the Nuggets had the game in hand and as the seconds ticked off the clock Murray shot a deep jumper as he tried to eclipse the 50-point mark. Murray missed the shot, but Irving wasn’t pleased with the attempt to stat pad. Irving grabbed the ball and flung it into the stands then chastised Murray in the postgame scrum. I’ll keep a close eye on the individual interactions between these two.
DeAndre Jordan vs. Nikola Jokic
Brooklyn has been choosing which center to start depending on the matchup. Jokic is a physical matchup so I expect Jordan to get the nod in the starting lineup tonight. Jordan has had a very minimal impact on the defensive end for Brooklyn so far this season. He struggles to guard in pick-and-roll or handoff scenarios. He’s often left flat-footed as guards blow past him with regularity, and Denver is a team that will make you guard handoffs and cuts to the basket. The Nuggets run handoffs on 8.1 percent of their possessions (no. 2) and score at a rate of 42.4 percent of the time (no. 5). Jordan is going to need to apply pressure to Jokic on the perimeter to make those handoffs to Denver’s guards and wings more difficult.
Spencer Dinwiddie vs. Gary Harris
Dinwiddie’s responsibilities are increasing now that Levert will miss extended time with a thumb injury. That’s no problem for Dinwiddie; he broke out last season averaging 28 minutes per game. This season, that has dropped to 25 per game. The addition of Irving is part of the reason for the decrease in minutes but his production has remained steady. He’s averaging 17.1 points per game and 4.7 assists. Gary Harris has struggled. He’s shooting 39 percent from the field and 34 percent on his 3s. His defense has remained solid but I’m sure Nuggets fans are hoping he starts knocking down more shots, especially in a game I expect to be a high-scoring affair.
Jokic is your star pickup for this matchup. The Joker has a salary of $9.6k on FanDuel and his points are projected at 44. Irving is next up. He has a slightly higher salary, at $9.8k, but his fantasy points are projected at only 37. Some other good pickups from the Nuggets side: Barton and Murray. Barton is going for $7.4k and projected to contribute 28.3 points. Murray has a salary of $7.5k with his fantasy points projected at 33.1. Dinwiddie for Brooklyn is the second-best pickup on the team. The guard is available for $5.5k on FanDuel and is projected to post 29.4 fantasy points.
Bet on Matchup
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