The “second half” started well for the Brooklyn Nets (22-31): a 114-105 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday led by strong performances from Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez, the artists formerly known as the “Big 3.” Williams’s 12-point, 15-assist showing, leading the team to a season-high 29 assists, was particularly encouraging. Thaddeus Young played only 12 minutes in his Nets debut, tallying eight points and four rebounds while displaying the versatile, athletic skillset the Nets lacked before his arrival.
Tonight, the Nets will take on the struggling Denver Nuggets (20-35) in the thin mile high air of Denver. The Nuggets made some moves of their own before the trade deadline, sending Aaron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee to the Portland Trail Blazers for Will Barton, Victor Claver, Thomas Robinson, and a protected first-round pick. Robinson’s contract was subsequently bought out, and is hearing from numerous prospective suitors — including the Netsi. The Nuggets also shipped JaVale McGee to Philadelphia, cementing more playing time for potential fantasy basketball steal Jusuf Nurkic.
The trades have come in the midst of the Nuggets free-fall in the Western Conference standings. Second-year head coach Brian Shaw has watched his team drop 13 of their last 15 games including a 119-94 demolition at the hands of the Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City Thunder last night. The Nuggets, who earlier the season traded Timofey Mozgov to the Cavaliers, were dominated on the glass 60-42 led by newly acquired Thunder center Enes Kanter’s 12 rebounds.
In their last meeting on December 23rd, the Nets beat the Nuggets 102-96 behind 27 points from Joe Johnson, fending off a 29-point performance from Ty Lawson and 20 points & 14 rebounds from Kenneth Faried. The Denver duo should pose matchup problems for the Nets, as they do most teams: Lawson (16.5 points, 9.7 assists per game) is one of the quickest players in the league, and Faried (11.5 points, 8.5 rebounds per game) is an energetic, tenacious rebounder.
Jarrett Jack (hamstring) is listed as out for tonight’s game, as is Bojan Bogdanovic after spraining his ankle in practice Sunday. Like Williams, Bogdanovic played an aggressive and productive game on offense against the Lakers, scoring 18 points including an impressive slam dunk in the first quarter. The injuries could spawn more playing time for rookie guard, Markel Brown who threw down his first career dunk on Friday while notching nine points in 15 minutes of game action.
It’s been a season of disarray in Denver, but the Nets will hold no sympathy. They’re need of a turnaround themselves, with the playoffs still a possibility. With just 19 games remaining on the schedule, the Nets begin the day a game and half ahead of Detroit and Indiana for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With road games in New Orleans, Dallas, and Houston still on tap this road trip, the Nets could use another win against a team short-handed and reeling in the standings.
Tip-off is at 9:00 PM E.S.T. at Pepsi Center in Denver, CO.