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Preview: Nuggets look to bounce back against Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets

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Kyrie Irving is back in Denver for the first time since Jamal Murray dropped 48 on him a year ago

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Brooklyn Nets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Following a pair of close wins and Tuesday’s bad loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Denver Nuggets has been left searching for answers. Defensively the team has been locked in for the most part but the free flowing offense of yesteryear is missing in action. Still, the Nuggets are 7-3 and have plenty of time to figure things out. Tonight’s National TV game against the Brooklyn Nets is a good place to start.

The Nets had one of the best free agent summers in a long time by adding Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan to a promising young roster. At 4-6 and without Durant, however, so far there have been mixed results. Brooklyn is currently riding a two game losing streak after falling to Phoenix and Utah on the road and is looking to stay afloat in a surprisingly competitive Eastern Conference.

The Basics

Who: Brooklyn Net (4-6) at Denver Nuggets (7-3)

When: 8:30 PM MST

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

How to Watch/listen: TNT/Altitude Radio

Rival Blog: Nets Daily

Expected Lineups

Position Nuggets Nets
Position Nuggets Nets
PG Jamal Murray Kyrie Irving
SG Gary Harris Garrett Temple
SF Will Barton Joe Harris
PF Paul Millsap Taurean Prince
C Nikola Jokic Jarrett Allen
Bench Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig, Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie, Dzanan Musa, Nicolas Claxton, David Nwaba

Injury Report: Malik Beasley - Questionable (illness); Caris LaVert - Out (Thumb), Kevin Durant - Out (Achilles)

Key Matchup: Kyrie Irving vs. Jamal Murray

Hopefully two days is enough time for Murray and the Nuggets to adequately study film of how to stop a crafty, high-scoring point guard because guarding Kyrie won’t be any easier than Trae Young was on Tuesday night. Granted, Murray wasn’t always Young’s primary defender, but Irving is Brooklyn’s primary threat and Jamal Murray’s game so far this season highlights part of Denver’s symptoms offensively as a whole and thus represents the key for tonight’s game.

For example, per NBA Stats last season the Nuggets took 29 FGA in the restricted area and 31.4 3PA per game. So far this season those numbers have dipped to 26.8 and 29.5 respectively, while mid-range attempts have jumped from 12 per game to 15.8. Effectively, the Nuggets have been replacing efficient shots at the rim and threes with long twos, and to top it off they are making them at a lesser rate. In Murray’s case, this season 34.4% of all his shots are mid-range compared to 22.9% a year ago, and his 3PA has dropped by an entire shot per game (5.5 last year to 4.5 in 2019). This increased reliance on the mid-range is not native to Murray; Nikola Jokic has also seen an uptick.

The last time Irving stepped foot in Pepsi Center he ended up chucking the ball into the stands in frustration after Murray lit him up for 48 points. On that night, perhaps the best so far of Murray’s young career, the Blue Arrow showcased his entire bag of tricks: he shot 5-11 from three, hit jumpers, got to the rim and drew fouls. Murray had the hot hand that night, but his success was also a byproduct of a healthier team offense. When the Nuggets are actively cutting and move the ball freely it enables players like Murray to go off both at the rim and from three. When things get stagnant and the team instead settles for low quality shots, Denver finds itself in close games and a poor shooting night away from unwarranted losses.

Tuesday was one such night in what has been a negative trend so far this season. Will tonight be the night the Nuggets begin to turn things around?