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Nets play host to the Nuggets

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One step forward, one step back. The Brooklyn Nets went into Philadelphia on Saturday night looking to win back-to-back games for the first time since December 8-10. They made some critical mistakes late and lost 103-98. We've got one more game before the All Star break.

The opponent this evening will be the Denver Nuggets. They've had a decent season and are within striking distance of the eighth seeded Utah Jazz. This is the second leg of a back-to-back and the second night of a four game road trip. They played the Knicks yesterday afternoon and won 101-96. After this, they head to Detroit to wrap up the first half on Wednesday evening.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV and WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off is after 7:30.

Injuries

The Nets have targeted this game as the one Chris McCullough will make his NBA debut for. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was originally expected back soon, but his return will be coming later than the team expected.

Darrell Arthur has been bothered by a quadriceps injury and didn't play yesterday against the Knicks. His availability for tonight is unknown. Jameer Nelson has been dealing with a wrist injury and hasn't played in a week. His status is also unknown.

The game

Check it

2015-2016

Brooklyn

Denver

Record

13-39 21-31

Pace

96.77 97.67

Offensive Efficiency

99.1 102

Defensive Efficiency

106.5 105.6

Turnover Rate

15.4 14.9

Assist Rate

16.7 16.8

Offensive Rebounding Rate

23.9 26.2

Rebound Rate

49.6 51.1

Free Throw Rate

23.2 29.3

Effective Field Goal Percentage

48.4 48.1

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

52.4 51.2

Here's something interesting. Mitch Lawrence of the Sporting News reported yesterday afternoon that the Nuggets might be interested in acquiring Los Angeles' Blake Griffin. It should be noted that the Clippers reportedly weren't interested in the talks, but you never know how these things can play out as we get close to the deadline.

In other off the court news, it looks as if a lot of progress is being made in the search for a new Nets General Manager. Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post reported on Saturday that the team is getting close to naming a new GM, will be interviewing candidates this week, and is likely to have one in place by the February 18 trade deadline. One of the candidates, Denver's Arturus Karmisovas, will be in town tonight so expect to hear a lot of discussion about his qualifications and what he can bring to the table.

Adjusting to NBA is difficult for any rookie, and doubly so if you're a point guard. Emmanuel Mudiay was taken seventh overall in the 2015 Draft and has shown flashes of brilliance, but he's eighth in the NBA in turnovers, averaging 3.6 a night in 30 minutes of game action. He's got a lot of room to grow his game (in particular from three point range), but he'll have the time he needs to develop his game with Denver. The Nets point guards will be looking to bounce back after terrible games on Saturday night. Donald Sloan had four turnovers in 21 minutes while Shane Larkin was involved in two botched plays in the final minute. The Nets have had plenty of trouble executing late in close games and with their margin of error at zero, they need something close to decent out of the PG position.

The Nuggets have another rookie to watch, but he's in the frontcourt. Nikola Jokic has been the starting center for the Nuggets since January 1 and in that time span, he's averaged around 11 points and seven rebounds while shooting 52.3 percent from the field in only 22 minutes a game. Jokic is one of the players Nuggets fans and management hope bring them back to contention soon. Mudiay is a big fan of Jokic, telling Sports Illustrated's Jake Fischer:

"He’s like a point-center. He’s good at give-and-go’s, he’s good at just making plays himself, and getting other people open. I think he could be an All-Star [one day]."

Brook Lopez will get to see another good young center this month. In four February games, he's been matched up with Andre Drummond (Detroit), Myles Turner (Indiana), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento), and Jahlil Okafor (Philadelphia). He's done well for the most part, and with Arthur out, should be featured heavily to start the game. Jokic can be a bit foul prone so if the Nets can get him out of the game early, it'll open things up for Brook later.

Player to watch: Danilo Gallinari

Gallo has been having the best season of his career and is Denver's go to scorer. He leads the team in scoring at 19 points per game and is fourth in the NBA in free throw attempts, averaging eight a night. Denver at Denver Stiffs, Gordon Gross discusses the trade rumors around Gallo:

The Rooster is Denver's best performer, on pace for a career-best in Winshares (in which he's currently top-20 in the league) as well as points, rebounds, trips to the free-throw line and angry gesticulations at the opposition.  He's in his prime at 27 years old and is finally healthy - although how long that will last is anyone's guess.   Who trades a 10 WAR player in his prime that wants to play for his middle-market franchise?  The case for trading him is essentially that he'll be too old by the time these baby Nuggets get good, and that he can leave after next season with no return coming back to the Nuggets.

Gallo will be matched up with Joe Johnson for much of the night. After being stuck in the upper 30s for much of the season, Johnson has finally gotten his field goal percentage to 40 percent. It isn't much to write home about, but he's been playing good ball for the last month and has managed to turn his season around.

From the Vault

It sounds as if George Karl is about to be fired in Sacramento. With that in mind, let's take a trip back to when the Nuggets/a Karl coached team appeared in the second round of the playoffs.

More reading: Denver Stiffs