The Denver Nuggets make their inaugural visit to Barclays Center tonight for a game against the Brooklyn Nets that will culminate the nominal first half of the NBA season for both teams.
The Nets are looking to head into the break on a two-game win streak, still riding the high of a gritty overtime win over Indiana on Monday night. That win came just one night after many players, most vocally Gerald Wallace, called each other to task for their inconsistent and somewhat individualized play – an approach interim coach P.J. Carlesimo approved of.
“It was important for us to respond and play the way we did at Indiana,” Carlesimo said, “and I think comments of that nature are great. I don’t just want to blanket endorse everyone just saying whatever they want, but I thought the comments were appropriate and the players responded well.”
To make it a two-game streak, Brooklyn must get past a 33-20 Nuggets squad that is in the Top 5 in the NBA in scoring, rebounding, shooting, and assists, but is just 11-17 on the road and 3-7 in the second half of back-to-backs this season. The Nets have been at their best when running at a methodical pace and struggled with teams that run a lot this season, and Carlesimo knows that his team must give Denver as few chances to get their fast break as possible.
“We have to take care of the ball, get back on defense, and put the ball in the basket when we have good looks,” Carlesimo said. “With some teams, they won’t always score off turnovers, but these guys will run and score immediately. Turning it over for sure would be death, and our offense will go a long way toward controlling our defense tonight.”
Deron Williams will once again sit out tonight due to a reoccurrence of synovitis in both ankles, but in his absence, the Nets will hope for a repeat of Monday’s performance by Tyshawn Taylor, who stepped in and posted a line of 12 points, two rebounds, and two assists in 34-plus minutes, his most extended action of the season.
The Nuggets, meanwhile, are looking to avoid losing a third consecutive game as they head into All-Star Weekend; the team had been riding a nine-game winning streak prior to Sunday, one which was snapped in an epic triple-overtime loss at Boston. That heartbreak was compounded last night in Toronto, when Rudy Gay’s jumper with 4.8 seconds left carried the Raptors to a one-point win.
Denver comes into Brooklyn quite banged up, as they will be missing two key players with two others going at less than 100 percent. Danilo Gallinari (sinus infection) and Andre Iguodala (right cervical strain) will not play, while Wilson Chandler, who sat out Tuesday with left groin tightness, and JaVale McGee, who plkayed just five minutes because of what the team called left tibia irritation, could be limited.
With any or all of those players absent, Kenneth Faried will likely have to be a huge force for the Nuggets; when asked about Faried’s high motor, Carlesimo likened him to Reggie Evans and acknowledged how the tough matchup Faried presents.
“He’s going to get you extra possessions, on both ends of the floor,” Carlesimo said. “The truth is, you don’t see the other conference as much so I don’t see him as much, but the few games I’ve watched, he’s been a handful. … The way they play is kind of unique, and he’s a real problem for everybody.”
All in all, Carlesimo said that he knows the Nets have struggled with quick teams and will likely need to up their tempo on offense greatly, but the fact that tonight’s game may end up as a shootout hasn’t affected the team’s strategy, at least at the outset.
“Maybe the players have talked about that, but we haven’t talked with them about it; we (the coaches) will talk about it, and some nights we have to,” Carlesimo said. “Part of our game plan for some games has been to be aggressive and attack other teams, but we didn’t talk about that for tonight; we focused more on the other end, knowing we need to take care of the ball, get back on defense, and take care of the ball.”