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Game Preview: Denver Nuggets vs Brooklyn Nets

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The Denver Nuggets face the Brooklyn Nets at the Pepsi Center in the first home game since All-Star break.

Nikola Jokic defends against Brook Lopez.

The Nuggets are back to the grind at Pepsi Center in what seems like ages. The excitement of All-Star break was followed by a stressful time for players as they awaited the trade deadline uncertain if they would remain a Nugget by week’s end. Now that the dust has settled, the Nuggets can relax and focus on holding their position at 8th seed in the West.

Denver didn’t make much noise after moving Jusuf Nurkic to Portland for Plumlee, but they certainly tried by making a “monster” offer to the Indiana Pacers in an attempt to acquire Paul George. Indiana rejected the Nuggets’ deal, and Denver ultimately made a swap for Roy Hibbert in exchange for a second-round pick with the Bucks.

The Nets were more active this week trading one of their consistent veterans, Bojan Bogdanovic, along with Chris McCullough to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Andrew Nicholson, Marcus Thornton and a first-round draft pick this summer. The Nets also acquired KJ McDaniels from the Houston Rockets, and ultimately waived Marcus Thornton. Nicholson is a role player and a skilled scorer at the power forward. He can be useful at the three-point line and will contribute to the defensive rebounding effort. McDaniels is an athletic guard who has fallen short of his potential. While he’s a skilled shot-blocker, he isn’t a good outside shooter so he likely won’t be of much use to Brooklyn.

The Nuggets had some momentum going into All-Star weekend after a great start to the year, but they’ll need to work hard to get that back after a tough loss in Sacramento. Denver is just barely ahead of Portland & Sacramento for the 8th playoff slot, and only a couple of losses could put them out of the running. The good news for Denver is that Danilo Gallinari & Emmanuel Mudiay are back from injury and ready to get to work on moving the team forward. Denver is 4-6 in their last 10 games, but so far in 2017 they’re averaging better field goal percentage, and higher percentage from the 3-point line. Their improved scoring is positively correlated to a fairly substantial increase in assists as compared to the end of 2016—thank you Nikola Jokic.

The Brooklyn Nets, in short, are in bad shape. They’re currently on a 14--yes 14--game losing streak, and they’ve won only 9 games all season long. They rank dead last in the league, which is good news for the Magic as they’re a whopping 12 games ahead making them basically immune from placing last in the Eastern Conference. The Nets beat the Nuggets in New York in early December by just 5 points, but they’re just 2-23 on the road coming into their first game since February 15th so they will likely be rusty, or rustier if that’s at all possible. They’re allowing an average of 114 points per game so they won’t put up much of a fight on D.

The Nuggets need to buckle down now if they really want to make a post-season appearance. The team could use a good lottery draft pick, but more than that I think they need to make the playoffs so they can experience achieving a team goal. Denver will likely be eliminated in the first round, but playing Golden State, the number one team in the world, in the post-season will sharpen them for an elevated level of competition next year.

The game against Brooklyn should be a slam dunk, pun intended, but given that they lost to the Nets last time the baby fresh Nuggs need to dial in and remember what worked for them at the beginning of the year. Attack on defense, move the ball, cut, and keep up the pace.