Nets vs. Nuggets preview: Paul Pierce, struggling Brooklyn limp into town

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets sit in the seventh seed out East, but only have one more win than the Nuggets. After getting smashed last night in Portland, it'll be interesting to see what sort of effort Jason Kidd gets from his team in this one.

Game 57: 2013-14 NBA Season
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26-29 (10-18 away)
Series 1-0 Nugs
25-31 (14-14 home)
February 27th, 2014
Pepsi Center - Denver, CO
8:30 PM MT
TNT / Altitude / 950 AM

Deron Williams PG Aaron Brooks
Shaun Livingston SG Randy Foye
Joe Johnson SF Quincy Miller (?)
Paul Pierce PF Kenneth Faried
Kevin Garnett C Timofey Mozgov
Notes
Nets Daily Blogs Denver Stiffs
Brook Lopez (foot) is out. Shaun Livingston (bruised tailbone) is probable. Injuries Danilo Gallinari (knee), JaVale McGee (leg fracture), Nate Robinson (ACL sprain), Ty Lawson (rib fracture), Wilson Chandler (knee) are all out. Darrell Arthur (hip) is day to day.
The Nets are old Stat The Nuggets are injured

Wilson Chandler won't play tonight against the Nets. The Nuggets forward told me he hyperextended his right knee in the loss to the Blazers and was wearing some kinetic tape on said knee and going over some treatment plans with team trainer Jim Gillen. Shaw didn't quite know what he'd do in Chandler's absence, but said to expect some crazy lineups.

The Nets lost in Portland 124-80 last night. That's a 44 point loss to a Blazers team that was coming off a close win in Denver the night before. Ouch. Veteran Paul Pierce had the following to say after the game:

That's a player taking responsibility for the way his team played. Check out what head coach Jason Kidd had to say after the game in contrast:

A little odd from Kidd? I say no. The coach is sticking up for his team a little bit, but the player is not making excuses and is calling out his effort and his teammates' efforts, as well. Pierce is a no doubter for the Hall of Fame and a guy that should have finished his career in Boston, if this were a fairytale. I still remember Scott Hastings telling a story on 104.3 The Fan years back when Kevin Garnett got to Boston. The story went something like Pierce wasn't running back to the line where a drill was being run. Garnett barked at Pierce, not letting the Celtic legend off the hook for not hustling, at all times. The player was policing his teammate and Pierce met the challenge and the Celtics won the title that same season. Players policing players - good to see from the Nets.

If the Nuggets were in the Eastern Conference, they'd be battling for the 6th-8th seeds. But out West, the Nuggets are now 7.5 games out of the final playoff spot. It would be a very odd thing to see these Nuggets in a real playoff hunt. Should teams with such turmoil as the Nets or Nuggets be battling for the playoffs?

The turmoil for the Nets has a bit to do with their ballpark $200 million payroll and their less than impressive record. It's very hard to buy championships in any sport, but Nuggets fans sure wouldn't mind seeing those types of payroll numbers if it guaranteed the team's first ever trip to the NBA Finals. But guess what? Money doesn't guarantee that.

The 37 year-old Kevin Garnett and 36 year-old Paul Pierce (are they really that old!?!) are on their last NBA legs and they were supposed to be supporting players for Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Joe Johnson. But injuries, as perhaps expected, have ruined the best laid plans.

Best case scenario for Brooklyn now is to sneak into the playoffs and hope that experience comes through. But it's going to be a very tough task for a team trying to make a quick identity. Lopez played just 17 games before breaking his foot, but was averaging an impressive 20.7 points per game. I thought that KG could perhaps intimidate Lopez, but from what I saw ... Brook was actually demanding the ball early in the season. In place of Lopez, it has been Johnson as the leading scorer at 15.2 ppg, but he's basically sharing scoring duties, as expected, with D-Will (14.1 ppg) and Pierce (13.5 ppg).

How about Andray Blatche being the fourth leading scorer for the Nets? He's putting up 11.9 points and 5.6 rebounds in 22 minutes a night. He has been a steady force for the team and maybe a bit of a surprise, even though he played pretty well for them, at times, last season too. KG's scoring has really fallen off a cliff at 6.8 ppg. The Big Ticket played just 14 minutes in Portland and has been a bit limited recently.

At the deadline the Nets made a couple moves. They traded for Nugget-killer Marcus Thornton (did I jinx him right? Or is this a reverse jinx?) and signed veteran Jason Collins (have you heard of him?) in place of the recently traded Reggie Evans (big man insurance). Not sure either guy will do very much for the team this season, but Thornton's scoring promise might come in handy for a team that needs some bench scoring.

Let's just hope Thornton doesn't light it up tonight.

Brian Shaw on Jason Collins:

"First of all, I think that it's great that he was able to come out and be who he really is and not have to hide that at all or feel ashamed or embarrassed," said Shaw. "I'm sure it's a load off of his shoulders. I know him personally and his brother, his family. I've known them since they were at Stanford. He's a good kid. I played against him in the Finals in 2002. So, really the only thing that matters is that he's a good basketball player and if can help his team win. That's all that anybody should be concerned about.

"I think it's good for him, it's good for their team, and it's good for the league as a whole," said Shaw. "I think it'll encourage other people in the same situation to go ahead and do the same thing if that's what their preference is, to not feel that they have to hide it. We've gone through all different kinds of movements over the last 30 or 40 years and it's just time that people are aware and accepting of who each person is. He's not trying to force his way of life on anybody else, he's just coming out and saying, 'This is who I am.' So, I think it's great for everybody involved."

Shaw on Collins' jersey being the no. 1 selling NBA jersey at the moment:

"It says a lot and you have to take that into account," said Shaw. "I know this [game] will be kind of special for him because this was the closest place to Matthew Shepard and from what I read I think [Shepard's] family is supposed to be in attendance tonight. And that was a hell of a gesture on Jason's part to change his number [no. 98] to that to bring awareness to that situation [read about that by clicking here]. I think it's good. As a culture we can all grow and learn from his courage of stepping up and out and saying who he is and 'Take me the way I am.'"

Views you can use:

-Thornton's first game action came against the Blazers where he went 4-11 from the floor (1-6 from deep) for 9 points. A little rusty, let's hope he doesn't get hot tonight.

-I'm glad the Nets signed Collins. He's good insurance off the bench as a capable big man, even in the twilight of his career. It's also cool that Collins gets to shut up those that screamed the NBA was keeping him away and for those that said gay players should keep their sexuality to themselves and not talk about it ... especially in the locker room. A local dweeb wrote about the locker room thing and it makes me happy to see his small minded view get blown up. Time moves on old man, deal with it.

-The Nets gave up a 42-21 fourth quarter to the Blazers last night. Can the old guys find their legs tonight or will the Nuggets get a win?

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