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Preview: Road weary Nuggets travel to face off against Nets

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The Nuggets road trip continues with a stop in New York City to face off against D’Angelo Russell and the Nets.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

I’m sure that everyone that was involved with the Nuggets game on Monday wants to move on and forget about it — the coaches, the players, the ball boys, the gaffer in the production studio.

It was a bad game, and tonight the Nuggets have a chance to show that it was an isolated incident and not indicative of a more worrisome trend. The Nets have finally shown signs of recovery from the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade of yesteryear, and are 28-27 with a representative in the Eastern Conference All-Star Game.

Remember those good days when us Nuggets fans had to cape for Emmanuel Mudiay being better than D’Angelo Russell? I’m glad I don’t have to lie online anymore about that specific argument, because Russell has definitely proven that he was, is, and will be the better NBA player. He’s stepped up for the Nets as their two other primary ballhandlers, Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie, have missed time with injuries. LeVert suffered an ankle injury that initially looked career-altering, but miraculously was able to avoid serious harm, and has begun to practice again. He won’t be ready to play against Denver, but when he does return, it’ll be nice to see him back on the court.

For the Nuggets, they have a slew of injuries of their own they are dealing with at the moment. Paul Millsap is the latest player to miss time due to an injury (again), sitting out against Detroit with ankle soreness after injuring his toe earlier in the season. Gary Harris and Jamal Murray continue to miss time, Harris with an adductor (or abductor) strain and Murray with an ankle sprain. The Nuggets don’t have an easy couple of games ahead of them, with contests against the 76ers, Heat, and Kings before the break, but it might serve the Nuggets best to keep their starting backcourt out against the Eastern Conference teams in order to help give them time to heal and be at full strength for the final 30 or so games of the season.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (37-16) vs Brooklyn Nets (28-27)

When: 5:30 PM MDT

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York

How to watch: Altitude, NBA League Pass, Reddit

How to Listen: Altitude Radio 92.5 FM

Rival Blog: Nets Daily

Lineups

Projected Lineups

POS DEN BRK EDGE
POS DEN BRK EDGE
PG Monte Morris D'Angelo Russell Nets
SG Malik Beasley Shabazz Napier Nuggets
SF Will Barton Rodions Kurucs Nuggets
PF Mason Plumlee Treveon Graham Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Jarrett Allen Nuggets
BENCH Brandon Goodwin, Torrey Craig, Juancho Hernangomez, Trey Lyles, Tyler Lydon DeMarre Carroll, Theo Pinson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Allen Crabbe, Dzanan Musa, Ed Davis, Alan Williams Nets

Injuries: Nuggets - Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, Isaiah Thomas, Michael Porter Jr.; Nets - Allen Crabbe (day-to-day), Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jared Dudley, Joe Harris

Three things to watch

Dumbo. We all know that elephants can’t fly, especially baby elephants. But while there are several life lessons to be learned from the story of Dumbo, the one for today’s article is that elephants are scared of mice. If the Nuggets start Plumlee and Jokic, they have to make sure that they aren’t scared of the Nets small-ball lineup. Jarrett Allen is a lanky center, who can block shots, but someone like Jokic should be able to score against him regardless. The problem is on defense, when Allen gets space to operate as a vertical lob threat. The Nuggets have to make sure they don’t get beat by an opposing big man again, and don’t let the Nets elephant fly ... whatever, it’s a weird metaphor. I’m keeping it.

Can Trey Lyles please have a good game? The Nuggets have to be a little discouraged with the season Lyles has had this year. He showed flashes last season, even filling in for Millsap, that seemed to indicate good things were in his future. I don’t think anyone in their right mind thought he’d be a full-time starter some day, but being a rotation player was definitely not out of the question. He scored 20 points in the Nuggets last game, but it didn’t matter because he got demolished on the defensive glass. He’s young, and inconsistent, but while other players have stepped up when injuries presented them with a chance this season, Lyles hasn’t. That doesn’t mean he can’t — some of us still believe — but if Millsap is out again tonight, the Nuggets really need good minutes from Lyles. When his 3-point shot is falling, he can stay on the court, even if everything else is bad. Hopefully tonight everything works, because if it doesn’t, Denver could get embarrassed again.

Revenge. They lost the first game against the Nets this season on a last second floater from LeVert back in November. Harris gambled for a steal, LeVert got in the lane, and hit a funky shot to win the game. Well, he won’t be able to do that tonight, because he’s out with an injury, but let’s not have Shabazz Napier or Mitch Creek win the game because they don’t get guarded and heat up for a few minutes in the second half. Hopefully the team plays with more fire than they did on Monday night, for all our sakes.

Prediction

Nets 110 - Nuggets 108.