Coming off a win over the lowly Los Angeles Lakers, the Denver Nuggets look to turn this home winning thing into a repeatable phenomenon as the similarly-lowly Brooklyn Nets roll into town. The Nets are on a nine game road trip, having just lost to the same Lakers team that Denver beat, and the Nuggets hope to get some revenge for Joe Johnson's last second banked-three that stole a victory in the last matchup between the two teams. Johnson is no longer there to break Denver's heart again, but without Danilo Gallinari the Nuggets will have to find some scoring and better contain the Nets defensively.
|Brooklyn Nets||Denver Nuggets||Advantage|
|PG||Donald Sloan||Emmanuel Mudiay||Nuggets|
|SG||Wayne Ellington||Gary Harris||Nuggets|
|SF||Bojan Bogdanovic||JaKarr Sampson||Nets|
|PF||Thaddeus Young||Kenneth Faried||Even|
|C||Brook Lopez||Nikola Jokic||Nets|
|Bench||Will Barton, Jusuf Nurkic, Joffrey Lauvergne, Mike Miller, Darrell Arthur, Axel Toupane, D.J. Augustin||Nuggets|
Key Matchup: Brook Lopez vs. Denver bigs. Lopez basically destroyed Nikola Jokic the last time they faced off, outscoring him 16-2 and getting him into early foul trouble - something Jokic has struggled with since. Jusuf Nurkic has the mass and aggressive nature to hound Lopez, but is still lost somewhere in Siberia after his sled dogs abandoned him. We're all just hoping he doesn't catch frostbite on his way back in from the cold. In all likelihood that means that it will be up to Jokic and Lauvergne to contain Brooklyn's big man and biggest threat.
There is no Gallinari on hand to pull the Nuggets back from an early deficit this time, so it's imperative Denver doesn't fall into a double-digit hole early. Emmanuel Mudiay had one of his better game of the season against the Lakers and Augustin caught fire in the fourth quarter, but the Nuggets cannot just rely on going small. At some point, someone will have to stop Lopez, and getting him into foul trouble for a change would be a nice touch.
Key to Watch For: Experimentation. Coach Michael Malone said he was interested in giving the young players some run at the end of games so that they have the experience under their belts, and was a man of his word against the Lakers. Not only did he alter his hockey rotations to bring Mudiay back early in the fourth quarter, but he played four first- and second-year players at the finish AND went with Jokic and Lauverge as his front court for some of their first minutes together this season. That three guard / two bigs lineup with an actual center on the court worked, as the Nuggets pulled away from the Lakers late.
He also played Harris with the bench for a couple of stretches in an attempt to alleviate some of the scoring and defensive woes suffered by that unit, and that experiment worked poorly. Malone is trying different things with the playoffs out of reach and Gallinari on the bench, though, and that bodes well for Nuggets fans trying to see some different player combinations and how they might work out next season. We're into the part of the season where the process is more important than wins and losses to this team, and Malone will have more wrinkles for us tonight I'm sure. Newcomer Axel Toupane might even see the floor after signing his 10-day contract.
Prediction: The Nuggets have trouble pulling away without Gallo's scoring, but get it done in the end 104-98.