On the second half of a back-to-back and on the heels of a win over the Phoenix Suns, the Nets seemed like they had no gas left. Behind a career-high 41 points from Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets defeated Brooklyn handily 112-104 Tuesday night.
The Nuggets held the momentum for the majority of the first half. Jokic dropped 21 first-half points and Will Barton added 13 points off the bench.
Jokic had the Nets beat on all angles. He made three-pointers, worked inside and blocked shots. He even was played in garbage time to get his career-high, because he had everything working for him.
Even with Tyler Zeller’s offensive success to start the game, Brooklyn had no stop for Jokic. Zeller, though, continued his offense, leading the team at the half with 12 points, following his 12-point performance in yesterday’s win over the Suns. He ended up being Brooklyn’s leading scorer of the night, putting up 21 points.
Brooklyn’s offense overall was sloppy, with 12 turnovers recorded in the first half to Denver’s seven. D’Angelo Russell had three turnovers in the first six minutes of the game, and the Nets came out of the gate flat.
After a few poor offensive performances, Caris LeVert started to find some rhythm in the first half by driving to the basket and even draining some of his jumpers. His explosiveness is something the Nets need to spark every night, and his nine first-half points show something was clicking for the sophomore.
Spencer Dinwiddie has a knack of keeping Brooklyn in games. When the lead started to get out of reach, Dinwiddie seemed to make a play that kept the Nets in the game. His threes have been what has stood out most this season, and they come when Brooklyn needs them. Tonight, though, his presence was not felt enough, getting just 16 minutes of play and recording five points.
Something the Nets could not get going on the night was their three-point shooting. They were 11-35 (31.4 percent) from distance.
With Denver outscoring the Nets 52-42 in the paint as well, there was nowhere for Brooklyn to get ahold of an edge.
Throughout the game, Kenny Atkinson gave minutes to some of his end-of-bench guys. Two-way player Jacob Wiley got first-half minutes, getting to the free throw line and notching a steal. Sean Kilpatrick and Isaiah Whitehead, who was called up from the Long Island Nets earlier today, got playing time in the second half as well, with Whitehead impressing.
The Nets threatened Denver a bit in the third quarter, but it did not last long. Brooklyn could not keep up a pace they thrive in, and whenever they did, Jokic made sure to put an end to it.
After struggling against Brooklyn last week, Barton got his way tonight, putting up 17 points on the game.
For the whole game, the Nets had 25 turnovers. Russell was the worst offender of giving up the ball, totaling 8 turnovers on the night.
When Brooklyn is having difficulty withholding opposing players like Jokic, turnovers are something they especially cannot afford.
Near the end of the third quarter, Atkinson started running lineups consisting of Wiley, Whitehead, Joe Harris, Timofey Mozgov and Kilpatrick. The purpose to try out this kind of lineup so soon? Maybe to see if the players can use the in-game experience to find a rhythm and to give the regulars rest after a back-to-back. Still, it seemed a bit early for Atkinson to give such a stretch of time to a nearly-third string lineup.
“Rhythm” was the key phrase of the night.
Players like Wiley and Whitehead looked solid, though, in the minutes they got.
While the Nets ran their bench, the Nuggets continued to run their starters.
Jokic was finally benched at the beginning of the fourth quarter due to his five fouls and ended up fouling out after registering a career-high 41 points, along with 12 rebounds and five assists. Still, Denver kept the pressure, going on an 8-0 run. Denver’s largest lead of the night was 25, but the team held steady around 15 points for the rest of the game.
The bench unit, led by Whitehead, ended up fighting back to come within eight points of the lead, but the lineup ran out of time to get any closer.
The Nets have two games left on their road trip before heading back to Brooklyn. Currently 1-2 on the trip, the Nets have two days off before they take on the Portland Trail Blazers Nov. 10 at 10 p.m.
The backcourt matchup will be one to watch out for. There’s something to look forward to, Nets fans.
The stats: 12 PTS, 6-14 FG, 0-3 3FG, 4 REB, 6 AST, 8 TOV, 1 BLK, 21 MIN
Following a night where Nets fans thought something finally clicked for Russell against the Suns, he reverted back to the mean of his previous problems this season. He struggled from the field, and most noticeably, recorded eight of Brooklyn’s 25 turnovers.
It was a back-to-back, yes, but consistency has yet to find its place in the young guard. After playing just 21 minutes and with two days’ rest before the next game, Russell needs to be fresh and impress against Portland’s backcourt.
The stats: 9 PTS, 3-6 FG, 1-3 3FG, 2-2 FT, 6 REB, 1 AST, 3 TOV, 18 MIN
Getting a shot in the starting lineup tonight to help fill the gap of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who was out tonight due to a right hip contusion, Carroll got into some trouble. He made a nice three in the first half, but that was not enough to make up for his three turnovers and quick foul trouble in the first half.
I think I like Carroll better in an off-the-bench role, where he can save his energy for the second unit and better apply his aggressive style of play.