While the Nets moved one of their guards at the trade deadline, another returned to the lineup for the first time in twenty-six games. Linsanity was back in full force, as Jeremy Lin took part in just his thirteenth contest of the season. The Nets would gladly welcome back the veteran guard to alleviate the pressure off rookie Isaiah Whitehead and former D-League (or G-League) guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Lin has averaged 14 points, 6 assists, and 3 rebounds while playing around twenty-five minutes per game this season, all of which are above his career averages.
The Nets enter the post-All-Star Break stretch with just nine wins, half as many as the 29th place Phoenix Suns (18-39) in the Mile High City against the Denver Nuggets. Denver fell Thursday night in their first game back from the break to the Demarcus Cousins-less Sacramento Kings, with Willie Cauley-Stein dropped twenty-nine points. Back in December, the Nets defeated the Nuggets 116-111 at Barclays Center with twenty-point performances from Brook Lopez and Sean Kilpatrick, who’s role will increase by the hole previously filled by Bogdanovic on the wing.
Lin played just over five minutes in the first, scoring his first points on a far side catch-and-shoot three. More than anything, Lin provided the distributor role the Nets have long missed. Guards driving into the lane and opening up looks for others on the perimeter was a rare occurrence over the forty-four games missed by Lin.
The Nets fell behind 30-25 after the first but were able to get the Nuggets into some early foul trouble, forcing both Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee into two fouls in the frame. However, the Nets shot just three of seven from the charity stripe and were lead by six points from Brook Lopez.
Denver took over at the start of the second quarter, extending the lead to double-digits, largely due to dominance in the paint, doubling up the Nets in rebounds and outscoring them in points handily. The Nets trailed 64-53 at the break, although every statistical category besides the aforementioned rebounds and points in the paint were similar.
Did somebody say Mason Plumlee revenge game? The former Net was on triple-double watch at the half scoring six points, six assists, and eight rebounds in just eleven minutes.
With the Nets not playing for the last week, you might have forgotten about the third quarter Nets — but, don’t worry, they are alive and well. The Nuggets turned an 11-point halftime lead into as many as twenty-seven in the quarter and held a 101-75 advantage after thirty-six minutes.
A hopeful Nets fan would have hoped for an opposite performance from the last time these two teams met, as the Nets held a big lead heading into the fourth, then were outscored by twelve in the final frame, but held on for the win. Unfortunately, Denver put it in cruise control in the fourth and came away with a 129-109 win, one night after falling to the Sacramento Kings, and handed Brooklyn their fifteenth loss in a row. The Nets next test will be their most difficult of the season, on the road, in Oakland, against the Golden State Warriors. Mercy.
Brook Lopez lead the Nets with seventeen points, other Nets in double figures included Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Isaiah Whitehead, and Trevor Booker. Denver, meanwhile, had three players score more than twenty with Danilo Gallinari, Gary Harris, and Wilson Chandler.
The stats: 17 PTS, 7-11 FG, 3 AST, 1 REB, 0 STL, 1 BLK, 2 TOV
Lopez was able to get the Nuggets bigs in Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee into foul trouble in the first, and even had Plumlee at four fouls for the majority of the third quarter, but was unable to limit his former backup. Plumlee was just shy of his first career triple-double with twelve points, eight assists, and twelve rebounds. The Nets were out-rebounded fifty-one to forty-two, and with Lopez only grabbing one, it puts the Nets at a huge disadvantage down low against a Nuggets team with one of the better rebounders in the league in Kenneth Faried.
The stats: 10 PTS, 4-9 FG, 1 AST, 2 REB, 1 STL, 0 BLK, 0 TOV
Caris LeVert drew into the starting lineup at small forward with Bojan Bogdanovic in D.C. and had a quiet first half, scoring just two points. LeVert was matched up with Danilo Gallanari, who poured in the points for the Nuggets with twenty. LeVert should get a ton of time to develop his game for the remainder of the season, and that’s something Nets fans should be excited about.