Oh, what a difference a season makes… The last time the New Jersey Nets and Denver Nuggets faced off, Nets Nation was preparing to watch their future Brooklyn-led superstar. Now, we get to see two completely different teams who made major trades at 2011 trade deadline. Following a winless home stretch, the Nets are back on the road where they’ve found a little more success. New Jersey will be without DeShawn Stevenson and Damion James, and Mehmet Okur is listed as a game time decision.
Joining Justin and I in the pregame conversation is Jeremy Wagner, from ESPN TrueHoop’s Denver Nuggets blog Roundball Mining Company. Let’s take it away.
1. What’s the most intriguing matchup tonight?
Chris Hooker: Nets front court versus the Nuggets front court. Kris Humphries is averaging more rebounds than either Al Harrington or Nenê. I think it will be interesting to see how Denver handles Humphries’ rebounding dominance tonight. The Nuggets have a much more refined offense that is tight and in sync with each other–which has been the key to their success so far this season. If the Nets can win the battle on the glass, it could help them hang with a much more competent Denver Nuggets squad.
Justin DeFeo: Matchup of styles. Denver plays at one of the league’s fastest paces while the Nets are one of the league’s slowest. Denver also has one of the league’s more efficient offenses while the Nets offense may be just starting to click. It will be interesting to see who can impose their style on the game more and if the Nets can keep the game in the 90’s.
Jeremy Wagner, Roundball Mining Company: Ty Lawson’s speed against Deron Williams’ strength and skill. Lawson has made a significant step forward playing with more confidence and more consistency. Williams has the size, strength and skill advantage. It should make for some entertaining hoops. Of course, Lawson may sit out with an injured foot and ankle, but I expect him to play.
A bonus second matchup would be MarShon Brooks and Arron Afflalo. Afflalo cut his teeth as a defensive stopper, but seems to have slipped in that department. It will be interesting to see if he can shut down the rookie who has already had a few impressive performances.
What do the Nets have to do to get a road win over the Nuggets?
CH: How about score points? The Nets were on the right track on Monday, shooting 46% from the field. Everybody but Deron Williams shot the ball well and if the Nets expect to beat the Nuggets, they absolutely have to shoot at or above 40%. They aren’t going to sneak out a win shooting the ball poorly like they did in Toronto. Deron needs to take less shots and distribute the ball more to his scorers. Let guys like Anthony Morrow, MarShon Brooks and even Shawne Williams get hot early or the Nets may find themselves trying to comeback in the second half… again.
JD: The Nets must play their style and control the Nuggets transition attack. Turnovers and missed shots will only help create offense for Denver so the Nets need to get a handle on that and knock down open jumpers that present themselves.
JW: Outwork Denver in the paint and do not turn the ball over. In Denver’s recent loss to New Orleans the Hornets bullied Denver in the lane and because of that they were able to control the tempo. New Jersey may not have the scorers the Hornets do on the block, but they can still pack the lane on defense and play physically on offense. It is important to have a decent shooting night and not turn the ball over to limit Denver’s abilities to run.
What are the chances the Nets win this game?
CH: 20%. I think the Nets are improving despite not winning. New Jersey looks more in sync and like they are starting to find a recognizable offense. However, it’s still not completely right and with DeShawn Stevenson out again, I don’t know if they are going to be able to stop Denver’s offense.
JD: 15%. Each team has had a day of rest, but the Nuggets are playing at home and are in the upper tier of teams in the Western Conference. It will take almost a flawless game from the Nets to win.
JW: 20%, maybe even less. With the Nuggets coming off a horrible performance against New Orleans and finally having a couple of days off in the same week I expect to see them play very well. Even if Lawson and/or Nenê, who is fighting a bruised heel, sit out, you can expect Denver to play with a lot of energy and determination.