The Brooklyn Nets (42-29) are 4-1 on their season long 8-game road trip. Now, they are looking for a statement road win. They will get that chance Friday night as they visit the team with the best home record in the NBA, the Denver Nuggets (49-24). Both teams have been playing well recently. The Nets are coming off of an 18-point blowout win in Portland and need just one more road win to clinch the franchise’s first winning road record in history. The Nuggets, meanwhile, recently ended their 15-game winning streak, which was overshadowed of course by Miami’s 27-game win streak. Since the streak ended, Denver has lost 2 in a row, first to New Orleans and then to San Antonio on the road on Wednesday.
Along with Miami, Denver has been the best home team in the NBA this year. The Nuggets have only lost at home 3 times and haven’t lost at the Pepsi Center since mid-January. Also, even more impressive, the only playoff team the Nuggets have lost to at home all season is Miami. The other losses were very winnable games against Minnesota and Washington. Basically, if the Nuggets feel like showing up at home, they don’t lose.
When these two teams played earlier this year, the Nets won easily at home against a very short-handed Nuggets team. However, Denver is a different team at home and also that was the last game before the all-star break, so the Nuggets may have been looking ahead to getting rest. Now, the team is probably mad about losing its last two games and is happy to come back home where they are nearly unbeatable.
Injuries: The Nuggets are a pretty healthy team. The only injury they have is Ty Lawson, who is doubtful for this game. Lawson is one of the quickest point guards in the league and is the kind of player who could give the Nets problems, so they may catch a bit of a break. For the Nets, Joe Johnson is questionable, but I will be very surprised if he plays.
Deron Williams vs. Andre Miller. Advantage: Williams
Andre Miller will probably start for Denver if Lawson can’t go. Miller has had a couple of spot starts this season, but typically comes off the bench for Denver, where he is averaging 9.5 points and 6 assists per game. At 37 years old, Miller is one of the oldest and slowest, yet craftiest players in the game. He is not a good shooter or scorer, but is a very good passer and still manages to get a couple baskets each game. Deron Williams shot poorly in Portland on Wednesday, but still played well. The Nets will need a lot from Deron tonight to win.
Keith Bogans vs. Andre Iguodala. Advantage: Iguodala
Iguodala was acquired from Philadelphia in the offseason, so the Nets are very familiar with him. He is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league and is also averaging 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. He is not a very good shooter and is only shooting 59% from the foul line this year, so the Nets can foul him if they need to. Bogans will start for Brooklyn if Joe Johnson can’t go.
Gerald Wallace vs. Danilo Gallinari/Wilson Chandler. Advantage: Gallinari/Chandler
Small forward is Denver’s deepest position with three good players, Gallinari, Chandler, and Corey Brewer. Sharpshooting Gallinari will get the start, but Wilson Chandler has been playing very well lately and he had a 35-point game last week. Gerald Wallace is going to need to have a great defensive game for the Nets to win. He can’t let Gallinari get open looks and he has to keep up with the Nuggets’ quick players who will try to run out on fast breaks.
Reggie Evans vs. Kenneth Faried. Advantage: Faried
Kenneth Faried is a more offensively talented and athletic version of Reggie Evans. They both have the same hustle and passion for basketball and both really want to win. Of course, Reggie is coming off the best game of his career on Wednesday. He will have a tough matchup tonight against Faried, who is nearly averaging a double-double with 12 points and 9 rebounds per game.
Brook Lopez vs. Kosta Koufos/Javale McGee. Advantage: Lopez
Kosta Koufos will start for the Nuggets, but Javale McGee will cause more problems for the Nets’ defense. Andre Miller is going to try to throw lobs to both McGee and Kenneth Faried and the Nets will need to prevent those easy baskets. Offensively, Brook Lopez should have a pretty good game. He had 28 effortless-looking points in his last game.
Prediction: Nuggets 108, Nets 104.
I think that the Nets will play well tonight and keep this game close, but Denver will just be too much at home. The Nuggets will control the fourth quarter and will be able to have more of the thin Denver air in their lungs towards the end of this game. Especially without Joe Johnson, the Nets will be gassed and not quite have enough to give the Nuggets their fourth home loss of the season.