The more things stay the same, they stay the same.
The Nuggets didn't come prepared to play, were out-executed on all fronts and were getting blown out by 29 points before striking a miraculous comeback to almost win the game. Denver cut the lead down to two late in the fourth, but poor execution on an inbounds play sealed the deal for Brooklyn, who with the 116-111 victory has now won six games in a row against the Nuggets. Wilson Chandler led the Nuggets in scoring with 27, and five others joined him in double-figures.
As usual, the Nuggets starting lineup came out flat. Not just flat, but flat-out awful. In the first three minutes they turned over the ball four times and the Nuggets found themselves down 13-2 before Michael Malone had seen enough. The second unit was able to generate some offense, but more turnovers and poor execution overall by Denver and nearly flawless execution by Brooklyn kept the Nets in a double-digit lead for the the whole quarter. Trevor Booker hustled his way to 10 points in the first frame, and after one the Nets had their largest first quarter lead of the season, 36-23.
The second quarter didn't fare much better for Denver. The Nuggets continued to turn the ball over, miss shots, not rebound and get completely outworked in the paint. Brooklyn broke the game wide open by attacking the basket, passing the ball and hitting the open shot. The Nets were also led by a balanced attack; in the second quarter they already had five players in double figures.
Turnover, brick, turnover, allowed paint points, turnover, another brick...the Nuggets are destroying my love of basketball 1 play at a time— Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs) December 8, 2016
Jusuf Nurkic checked back in and had a big second quarter, cleaning up the glass and scoring some easy buckets as a result. He finished with 11 points in the first half, and Will Barton chipped in 11 of his own but overall the offense wasn't able to generate enough momentum. Backed by an astounding 42 points in the paint and 10 Nuggets turnovers, Brooklyn led 68-52 at the half.
In an interesting twist, Darrell Arthur started the third quarter in place of Kenneth Faried but the impact wasn't immediately there. Brooklyn came out on an 11-0 run again, fueled by two Lopez three-pointers, before Wilson Chandler countered with a three of his own. The Nets kept rolling, going up by 21 before a visibly frustrated Malone was ejected for arguing with the refs, perhaps in an attempt to inject some life into his squad. It kind of worked, as Chandler got hot and Jameer Nelson provided a spark off the bench, but the Nuggets were still down by 17 after three.
The little run for Denver continued to start the fourth, as a few quick buckets forced a Nets timeout with the lead down to 12. The Nuggets chipped away, then exploded in the fourth led by a barrage of Chandler and Nelson and some very stout defense on the other end of the floor. From the end of the third through the fourth, Denver went on a 30-8 run to cut the once 29 point lead down to just five. The Nuggets went cold but stayed within striking distance. With less than a minute remaining, Jokic had a huge block and another Chandler three brought the game within two.
The Nuggets instinct to execute poorly late in close games then took over, as a botched inbounds play stopped all momentum and put the game out of reach.
Game Notes and Takeaways
Malone needs to change the starting lineup. This is unacceptable. As mentioned earlier, the starters were horrendous tonight. A minute in a half into the game they had three turnovers and were down 11-0. The Nuggets were never even in this game because of those first few minutes, and this is the same pattern that has plagued the Nuggets night in and night out. It forces the entire game plan out of sync as the team tries to dig itself out of a hole. While starting the same unit does provide at least some consistency to the rotations, tonight's poor performance might have finally struck a chord with Malone. He put in DA in the second half, and while it didn't yield amazing results, it might finally mean a change is coming. Will it happen tomorrow night in Washington?
What happened to Kenneth Faried? The Manimal played the first four minutes of the game and didn't sniff the floor until the fourth quarter, well after Malone had already been ejected from the game. He did end up playing nearly the entire fourth, but his absence is interesting as he has been one of Malone's favorite "hustle guys" all year, regardless of the situation. It will be interesting to see what this means going forward, especially since Malone put Arthur in over Faried to start the second half. Though Arthur's presence in the second half didn't necessarily
Good effort, poor execution. These fourth quarter comebacks are fun to watch, and the Nuggets effort is resilient, but let's be honest: going down by 29 points to a five-win team is not a good sign. This team has so much to figure out beyond the starting lineup. The biggest issue continues to be turnovers as they 17 tonight which translated to 27 Brooklyn points. Mudiay, by the way, didn't have any of them.