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3 Takeaways Brooklyn Nets Blowout Loss vs Denver Nuggets

Changes in altitude, changes in attitude.

Brooklyn Nets v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Adam Silver didn’t just throw the Brooklyn Nets to the wolves tonight, he put them in a straight jacket, covered them in barbecue sauce, and then finally tossed them out in the wilderness.

Playing the reigning champion Denver Nuggets, on the second half of a back-to-back, just 24 hours removed from playing the league’s newest big three, and in the Mile High City, the Nets could not have found themselves in a tougher situation. Denver chomped down on the meal lying before them, winning by a 124-101 final score.

Brooklyn hung with Denver early. They never led, but danced around that 12-7 point deficit area for much of the first half. But the cracks starting to show during those first two periods gave away in the third. By the game’s final frame, the contest had already been decided.

If you expected the Nets to win this one, I don’t know what to tell you. Brooklyn certainly didn’t walk into it intending to lose, but you literally could not have dealt them a tougher hand scheduling wise. Amidst the beatdown, here’s what we learned.

Lonnie Walker IV Injury Starting to Hurt

Anytime you take a sixth man of the year candidate, take him out of his uniform, and put him in street clothes, your team will hurt. Lonnie Walker IV leaped out to an incredible start for the Nets this year, averaging a career high 14.6 points per game on outstanding 49/46/76 splits.

But since he went down with a hamstring injury, Brooklyn’s bench has been able to tread water. They came into tonight’s game as a top-10 bench scoring unit with 38.9 per game. Their reserves also played a large hand in beating Phoenix the night before, outscoring the Suns off the bench by 12 points.

However, with the team battling fatigue and with fewer options at the guard spot sans Ben Simmons and Dennis Smith Jr., they missed Lonnie Walker IV more than ever.

To put things in layman’s terms, the Nets needed a scoring spark all night, and that’s exactly what Walker IV resembles. Brooklyn had their lowest scoring quarter all season in the second frame with just 17 points.

They also shot just 41.5% from the field for the whole contest — a bottom-three mark for the season. They struggled especially to finish around the cylinder and also hit catch-and-shoot threes, both of which are specialties of Walker IV’s.

A healthy Walker IV on the floor tonight may not have resulted in a win, but the Nets looked like a fish out of water tonight, and Walker IV would have been like a puddle for them splash around in and stay alive. Like the ones Dennis Smith Jr. and Cam Thomas experienced before him, this is our “he’s more valuable than we ever thought” moment of the season for Lonnie Walker IV.

Trendon Watford Remains Serviceable

The aforementioned injuries to Brooklyn opened the door for Trendon Watford to become a key role player. Sure, the Nets struggled tonight without some key guys, but Watford came through as perhaps the only bright spot for the Brooklyn.

The ex-Blazer finished with eight points and six dimes while going 4-9 from the field. His patented floater was on display and he showed some hustle at the other end as well, turning some heads with an early block on Michael Porter Jr.

To be fair, Wat’s performance had its flaws all the same. We’ve seen better games from him a facilitator before and he got a bit too overzealous at times with his shot selection. He also over-committed on a couple closeouts, but that’s a team-wide problem if you ask me. (Editor’s Note: We did.)

To bring it back to my opening point though, we don’t have a lot to work with in terms of positives for tonight. Trendon Watford, however, did his best to cut into that. The third year product displayed hustle and presented a solid case to retain some minutes when Walker IV and Smith Jr. return.

With him playing a similar role to Ben Simmons, keeping him consistently in the rotation when/if he returns will be another discussion, but until then, he deserves the shot he’s getting. That’s a good story for a guy who apparently wasn’t good enough for the rebuilding, 6-16 Portland Trail Blazers.

Jacque Vaughn Never Quits

Almost everyone in Ball Arena likely agreed with me earlier when I said the game was over after the third quarter — everyone except Jacque Vaughn.

Even with Brooklyn rolling through this game with an empty tank and three flat tires, JV kept his foot on the gas. It didn’t result in a win, but you have to admire his competitiveness.

Lucas Kaplan took the words right out of my mouth with his tweet. Vaughn killed two birds with one stone during what should have been closing time for the Nuggets, challenging a call, winning it, and in the stopped time drawing up a look for Armoni Brooks.

Brooklyn applied just enough pressure to force a few late timeouts from Michael Malone down the stretch. It was never enough for the Nuggets to put their starters back in, but again, you have to take the little victories here.

At the very least, Vaughn’s persistence seems like something that could pay dividends in the locker room. In a star driven league, anyone can forget about the guys on the back end of the bench. But JV treated them as if they were starters tonight, coaching through to the finish with all his might.