The Brooklyn Nets (30-22) will conclude the first half of their season Wednesday night when they host one of the hottest teams in the NBA, the Denver Nuggets (33-20). The Nets are coming off of an impressive overtime win on the road in Indiana on Monday night without their point guard, Deron Williams. However, they had been slumping before that win. Denver is one of the best home teams in the NBA and had a 9-game winning streak before losing their last two games in triple overtime in Boston and on a Rudy Gay shot in the final 5 seconds in Toronto last night. This will be the second game of a back-to-back for Denver.
After a sluggish start, Denver has been one of the best teams in the NBA since November. Although this team does not have a superstar player, they are third in the NBA in scoring. They are also among the best in other offensive categories like field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, and assists. Additionally, Denver has been one of the better rebounding teams and are not bad defensively in terms of points per 100 possessions.
The Nuggets and Nets play with 2 opposite playing styles in terms of pace. The Nets have been last in the NBA all season in pace, but Denver is second in the league, behind only Houston (who gave Brooklyn lots of problems when they met earlier this year). The team who controls the pace will probably win the game.
The Nets should have a nice home court advantage tonight because Denver plays much better at home than on the road. Although they are 22-3 at home, the Nuggets are only 11-17 on the road, so this should be a winnable game for Brooklyn.
Injuries: Deron Williams will miss his second straight game for Brooklyn. Denver has had a lot of small injuries recently. Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Javale McGee are all doubtful or questionable and it is likely that none of them will play with the all-star break coming up. Because of all those injuries, this has become a much more winnable game for Brooklyn.
C.J. Watson vs. Ty Lawson. Advantage: Lawson
Ty Lawson is exactly the kind of point guard that gives the Nets problems. He is small, quick, athletic, and strong, and point guards like that have killed the Nets in the past. To make things worse, with Deron Williams out, C.J. Watson will start again. In his last game with Deron out, Watson had 1 point on 0-7 from the field. Tyshawn Taylor will not start tonight but expect him to get lots of playing time after his impressive game in Indiana. Lawson could go for 30 points tonight.
Joe Johnson vs. Evan Fournier. Advantage: Johnson
Fournier got the first start of his young career last night in Toronto and had 6 points in 18 minutes. He will be splitting time tonight with Jordan Hamilton, another young, inexperienced player. This is Joe Johnson’s game to shine. Without Deron Williams playing, Johnson should become the Nets’ main perimeter scoring option. On top of that, Denver’s injuries will force inexperienced players to guard Johnson, and he should be able to easily take advantage of them. If Johnson doesn’t score 20 or more points tonight, I don’t know if he ever will again.
Gerald Wallace vs. Corey Brewer. Advantage: Wallace
Brewer has been a bench player for Denver this year, but moves into the starting lineup with all the Nuggets’ injuries. He is a guy who is capable of scoring a lot if he needs to. At 26 years old, he is very athletic and is one of the better dunkers in the league. Gerald Wallace may struggle to stay in front of him, but it is also possible that Wallace could shut him down.
Reggie Evans vs. Kenneth Faried. Advantage: Faried
Evans and Faried have lots of similarities in their games. The biggest difference is that Faried is much younger and more athletic and is more competent on offense. I am excited to see these two guys battle for rebounds. Expect multiple loose-ball fouls between these two players. Faried gets many of his points off of follows on offensive rebounds, so it is important for Reggie to box out, especially on the defensive end.
Brook Lopez vs. Kosta Koufos. Advantage: Lopez
Lopez had one of his best games of the year on Monday against the 7’3 Roy Hibbert and should only play better tonight. If Javale McGee can’t play, Lopez will be going against Koufos and Timofey Mozgov, which is a great thing for the Nets. He should be able to have another 20-point game pretty easily.
Prediction: Nets 96, Nuggets 94.
Both these teams have injuries now, but Brooklyn showed us some good things on Monday and if Denver is missing 4 of their key players, I think the Nets will find a way to win this game. The key will be pace. If neither team reaches 100 points, Brooklyn should win. If both score over 100, Denver will win.