Nets look to split season series with Denver Nuggets

Photo courtesy YES Network

Time: 9 p.m. EST

Location: Pepsi Center

Watch: YES, FOX Sports GO

Listen: WFAN 101.9 FM, 660 AM

Photo courtesy YES Network

Coming off a win over the Phoenix Suns that broke a four-game losing streak, the Brooklyn Nets will be looking for revenge as they travel to Denver for the second half of a back-to-back Tuesday. Denver was victorious the last time these teams met in Brooklyn and have gone 2-2 since the late October meeting.

Denver put up 124 points in the matchup, including a 40-point third quarter. The Nuggets started the second half on a 22-4 run, as Brooklyn struggled and missed 10 of its first 11 shots. The Nets scored 36 first-quarter points and led by as many as 14 before arguably the worst quarter of their young season.

Jamal Murray was the star for the Nuggets, scoring a game-high 26 points (8-14 FG, 2-3 3FG) and dishing out five assists. It will be interesting to see how Kenny Atkinson adjusts defensively if the Kentucky alum heats up again. 

A recurring theme for this Brooklyn team is its inability to contain opposing big men. In the prior matchup, Denver abused an injury-riddled Nets frontcourt as Nikola Jokic, 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Paul Millsap, 13 points and 11 rebounds, both had double-doubles. The Serbian big man Jokic is having a career season, averaging about 16 points, 12 rebounds and nearly five assists per game.

Trevor Booker and Timofey Mozgov must be prepared to defend the three-point shot, as Jokic is currently shooting a 44 percent clip from three and Millsap is averaging 35 percent from deep on the season, which is slightly above his career average. Brooklyn has many defensive adjustments to make when playing offensively talented teams like Denver, and the team needs to rely on its defense rather than trying to outshoot the other team for the entire 48 minutes.

After a strong showing in the teams’ last meeting, expect Spencer Dinwiddie to shine again. He led the way for the Nets, scoring 22 points off the bench. Averaging 11 points, three rebounds, and five assists, Dinwiddie has taken advantage of the available minutes the Lin injury opened up, getting 23 minutes a game. 

While it is unclear if he will play tonight after suffering a right hip contusion yesterday, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has been a bright spot for Brooklyn this year, as the stretch four scored 18 points with six rebounds as he took advantage of the more traditional frontcourt that Denver deploys. RHJ has been great this season in not forcing his offensive game, waiting for the right time to either stroke his newly improved jump shot or attack the rim, which has resulted in a career-high in free throws attempted per game at almost six.

Three things to watch for

  1. Turnover issues

The Nets turned the ball over 15 times against the Nuggets when these teams played in Brooklyn, compared to Denver’s six. Hollis-Jefferson and Booker currently lead Brooklyn in turnovers’ per game, averaging over three apiece. Denver’s young athletic guards like Murray, Gary Harris and Emmanuel Mudiay use their speed and athleticism to take advantage of sloppy passing and turn them into easy points, so the Nets need to be on their toes.

  1. Joe Harris

Many considered Joe Harris a fringe player on the Brooklyn Nets this season, and once Allen Crabbe was brought in, some assumed that Harris may not even make the team. However, Harris is proving his doubters wrong and is in the midst of a career shooting year, averaging a career-high 9.7 points with shooting 47.8 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from three-point range.

Following up a career-high 18-point game against the Suns yesterday, the right-handed shooting guard is the perfect fit for Kenny Atkinson’s offense. In the last game against Denver, Harris had success too, as he tied his then-career-high 16 points and finished 4-8 from three-point range. Harris will look to ride this wave and be an impact player off the bench for the Nets, using all parts of the court to make his mark with talent and hustle. 

  1. Richard Jefferson

This may very well be an emotional night for most Nets fans, in what could be the last time they see the Nets great play against his old team. Drafted in 2001, R.J. went go on to play eight seasons with the New Jersey Nets, averaging as many as 23 points in the 2007 season.

Jefferson’s style was incredibly fun to watch, as his high-flying ability combined with his defensive hustle drew many fans to the Nets at the time.

From all of us at The Brooklyn Game, thanks for the memories, R.J.!