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Nets try to salvage road trip in Denver vs. Nuggets

Detroit Pistons v Denver Nuggets Photo by Ethan Mito/Clarkson Creative/Getty Images

Still bad. The Brooklyn Nets faced the Utah Jazz on Friday night hoping to get out of their funk. However, it didn't happen and the Jazz throttled Brooklyn in a wire-to-wire beatdown. The L was their seventh in a row and things are getting scary. Take whatever you can get and hope you find good health at home.

The opponent to close this road trip out will be the Denver Nuggets. Mike Malone and company have held it down through it all. They played the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night and lost by eight points. The loss was their third in a row.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV for the locals and NBATV for the outsiders. WFAN on radio. Daytime basketball so the party is getting started after 3:30 p.m.


Kevin Durant, Joe Harris, and LaMarcus Aldridge are out. Nic Claxton left Friday night’s game with left hamstring tightness. He’s listed as questionable. James Harden sat out Friday’s game with hamstring tightness. He’s listed as questionable, but that’s not the biggest thing surrounding him right now. More on that momentarily.

Jamal Murray and Michael Porter, Jr. are out. Vlatko Cancar is out after undergoing right foot surgery. Aaron Gordon missed Friday’s game with left hamstring tightness. He’s listed as probable for this contest. DeMarcus Cousins was available on Friday night as he was dealing with a right foot sprain, but he didn’t play. He’s not on the injury report and will be good to go.

The game

Denver won the first meeting last month.

So, let’s talk about James Harden! On Friday afternoon, The Athletic’s Shams Charania set it off with a report indicating that the Nets were now open to discussing a Harden trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. He’s out again today and with the deadline a few days away, lord knows what the hell is gonna happen next. If he does go, it would be a disappointment of epic proportions and the Nets will have to figure out where the rest of the season will take them and fast. If he stays, it would be awkward as hell, but something he and the team would have to figure out as they chase an NBA championship. Never a dull day around these parts.

The Nuggets have a chance to go on a deep playoff run, and with the deadline a few days away, Mike Malone and Nuggets management are trying to strike the perfect balance of making moves to help this year while also accounting for the shape of the roster when Murray and Porter, Jr. get back.

If you’re looking for a bright spot, then Cam Thomas’ game was for you. He scored a game high 30 points and made a lot of magic happen off the dribble. With KD on the road to recovery, the Nets can use as much shot creation as humanly possible. Thomas and the other kids have been a bright spot this season and watching them gain more confidence in their games has been a hidden joy of this Nets campaign.

If you’re looking for some optimism, allow SB Nation’s Sabreena Merchant to give you some

Stef Dolson who played for the Sky works in Brooklyn now. Maybe she can give the team a pep talk or something!

The Nets’ big man room is short handed, which is bad news on any day. It feels even more ominous when the reigning MVP is waiting for you. Nikola Jokic is a destroyer of worlds and has kept the Nuggets afloat even without his other stars. He’s one of the contenders to win the MVP and as Ryan Blackburn of Denver Stiffs notes:

It’s clear that Jokić drives winning more than any player in the NBA this year. The Nuggets need him to be the do-it-all center he has become, and they need that production every game. Sometimes they need 30+ points. Sometimes it’s 20+ rebounds or 15+ assists. Jokić has delivered, over and over again. He’s had to make it work all season long without his top running mate in Murray and top outside shooter in Porter, facing junk defenses that overload the ball and force tougher reads than ever before. Jokić is still making things happen anyway.

Jokic is such an incredible player to watch and getting the opportunity to watch him every night is a joy. I’m hoping he gives us at least one jaw dropping pass in this game.

DayRon Sharpe is going to have his hands full this afternoon and the team will need to have A+ defensive communication and help him out as much as they can. Blake Griffin figures to start, and he’s looked good when he’s been on the court in recent games. The Nets can use another player that can initiate the offense, and BG can help spread the offensive workload out.

Without Durant, the Nets defense has cratered. Over the last ten games, the Nets have allowed 119.3 points per 100 possessions, third highest in the NBA. Steve Nash and the coaching staff will have to find the right combinations to figure this slump out and keep the team afloat until the big guy gets back.

We’ll get to see an old friend of ours today. Jeff Green has been starting for much of the season and has filled in admirably for the injured Porter, Jr. Uncle Jeff has seen his three point shooting take a nine percentage points dip this year, but that’s to be expected when he’s on a team that didn’t have the offensive firepower of the 2020-2021 Brooklyn Nets. We all want that old thing back.

Player to watch: Will Barton

With Gordon currently out and the other big names recovering, Barton has taken on more offensive responsibilities this year. His usage rate is at the highest mark of his career and is giving the team 15 points and around five rebounds and four assists a night. He started off hot against Brooklyn in the matchup on January 26, but struggled down the stretch.

It’s been a rocky few games for Kyrie Irving. He hasn’t shot above 33 percent from the field in each of the past two games and with the team sinking fast, they’re going to need him to keep the ship afloat. After Friday night’s loss, Irving spoke about the team’s issues and said:

”And we got to kind of get out of that hole with just one win and then start a new streak from that point. But no time to feel like our season is in doomsday or we need to push the panic button at all points, but we have to face reality that a lot of guys, a lot of my teammates, we’re still getting to know one another, how we play, what’s our spots, offensive and defensive tendencies.

“And then communication. Knowing that we can get on guys and guys love to be coached. And it’s not just from the head coach or the assistants but really just from us as teammates. Trusting that we have the experience to win basketball games.”

Irving hasn’t been getting to the basket the past two games, and if he does get to the cup tonight, he should have a lot of success. Denver allows teams to shoot 69.9 percent inside of the restricted area, highest in the NBA. Even with his mini slump, the team needs Kyrie to attack early, often, and with precision. No one’s gonna feel sorry for the Nets, so they’ve got to tough it out and make it happen.

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More reading: Denver Stiffs