After their surprising win in Memphis on Saturday, the Brooklyn Nets (5-12) return home to face one of the hottest teams in the NBA, the Denver Nuggets (10-6). Denver didn’t get off to a great start this year, but they have now won 6 in a row including defeating the “first place” Toronto Raptors on Sunday. The Nuggets are known for their small lineups and speed, with Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson, Randy Foye, and Evan Fournier in their backcourt.
The one thing the Nets need to be concerned with tonight is not looking ahead to the Knicks game on Thursday. There is a lot of pressure on the Nets to win that game because if they lose, they will allow the Knicks to snap their 9-game losing streak and they will be the joke in New York. I think that is definitely on some of the players’ minds. But meanwhile, they have a really good Denver team coming into Brooklyn tonight.
Injuries: The Nets obviously have a ton of injuries. As soon as they get Brook Lopez back, Paul Pierce will miss 2-4 weeks with a broken hand. And Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, and Jason Terry are all still out on top of that. Denver will be without Danilo Gallinari and Javale McGee.
Tyshawn Taylor vs. Ty Lawson. Advantage: Lawson
Lawson is having by far the best year of his career, averaging 21 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds per game. He has been very consistent and rarely has had games where he has scored fewer than 15 points. Tyshawn Taylor may have replaced Shaun Livingston in the starting rotation after the Nets won on Saturday while starting Taylor. Livingston still should get a lot of minutes, but starting Taylor here makes a lot of sense because he can keep up with smaller point guards better than Livingston.
Joe Johnson vs. Randy Foye. Advantage: Johnson
Foye’s best weapon is his 3-pointer, and good 3-point shooters have definitely hurt the Nets this year. Whether Anderson or Johnson is guarding Foye, they need to limit his open 3′s. With Pierce out, a lot of the scoring load moves to Joe Johnson’s shoulders. He really needs to average around 20 ppg until Pierce comes back, which he is capable of doing.
Alan Anderson vs. Wilson Chandler. Advantage: Chandler
Chandler has definitely been somewhat of a disappointment in Denver, often being injured and never turning into the star some people thought he would become. He is averaging 10 ppg this year. Anderson likely moves into the starting rotation until Pierce or Kirilenko come back. As a starter, Anderson is going to need to score more than he has been doing off the bench recently.
Kevin Garnett vs. Kenneth Faried. Advantage: Faried
Faried is the type of player who kills the Nets: he is young, athletic, and likes going up for alley-oops. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jason Kidd put in Mason Plumlee to guard him. Garnett and Lopez need to be aggressive to not allow Faried to get any offensive rebounds. KG has been a little bit better recently but still hasn’t had a breakout game yet. The Nuggets don’t have great interior defense so I hope that Garnett will make an effort to get into the paint in this game.
Brook Lopez vs. J.J. Hickson. Advantage: Lopez
Hickson is a pretty good post player and rebounder, but he is really known for his lack of defense. Brook Lopez should be able to score 20 points easily on Hickson.
Bold prediction: The Nuggets score 25 fast break points. The Nets don’t have the speed to stop them from running.
Score prediction: Nuggets 109, Nets 97. The Nets haven’t won back-to-back games this year and I can’t see that streak ending against a team that presents plenty of bad matchups for them.