Preview: Nuggets travel to Brooklyn to face James Harden and the Nets

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Denver Nuggets
Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

The two stars Jokic and Harden headline tonight’s matchup. James Harden will show his new threads as he faces the Nuggets for the first time in a Nets uniform

The Denver Nuggets will take on the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center on the second night of a back-to-back. The Nets are also facing the second night of a back-to-back as they lost to the Lakers last night 106-96. They will be without two of their stars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. James Harden is expected to suit up, but there have been multiple reports conveying his dissatisfaction with the team. Nonetheless, the Nuggets have struggled in back-to-backs this season and tonight is a great opportunity to remedy that.

In games with zero days rest, the Nuggets are 1-6. They shoot 32% from three and 45% overall with about 13 turnovers per game. On the other hand, the Nets are an underwhelming home team. They rank 3rd in the East, only one game behind first place, but they have a 12-12 home record. Overall they are in 5th in scoring but at home, that ranking dwindles down to the 20th spot. Although they do have James Harden who has been a thorn in Denver’s side, this team is vulnerable on their home floor.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (25-21, 12-12 away) @ Brooklyn Nets (29-18, 12-12 home)

When: 6:00 PM MT

Where: Barclays Center

How to watch/listen: NBA League Pass, Altitude TV (If you’re lucky enough), or 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Nets Daily

Expected Starting Lineups:

BKN: PG Patty Mills, SG James Harden, SF DeAndre’ Bembry, PF Kessler Edwards, C Day’Ron Sharpe

DEN: PG Monte Morris, SG Will Barton, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Jeff Green, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Will Barton (day to day), Jeff Green (day to day), Markus Howard (day to day), Vlatko Cancar (out), Kyrie Irving (out), Kevin Durant (out), Joe Harris (out), Nic Claxton (day to day)

Three Keys

Contain James Harden

As the Nuggets fans know, James Harden has not been kind to Denver. He averages 24 points, 6.4 assists, and 5.2 rebounds against the Nuggets in his career. In his last nine meetings with Denver, he has eclipsed 30+ points in six of those games. With that being said, he has never faced Denver as a member of the Brooklyn Nets. That might not mean much because he is still the same incredible player, but he will not have all the weapons at his disposal with KD and Kyrie out. Nevertheless, Harden is as unguardable as they get. He can score from anywhere on the floor, get to the line as much as anybody, and dish it to open shooters when necessary. Denver might not be able to prevent him from scoring in this matchup, but they need to make sure they don’t offer open three-point attempts. He loves the drive and kick opportunities, so the Nuggets will have to choose the lesser of the two evils.

Perimeter shooting

The Nuggets have been excellent at this of late. Over the last seven games, the Nuggets lead the league in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and are second in scoring with 121.4 PPG. They have 9 players shooting above 40% from three during that stretch. As previously stated, Harden loves to drive and kick to open three-point shooters, so there will be plenty of opportunities for the Nets. If you’re the Nuggets, you try to contain that as much as you can but if Denver can get hot from three, it might pressure the Nets into taking some bad shots. Bryn Forbes and Bones Hyland could prove pivotal in tonight’s matchup. They both have not found a consistent three-point stroke yet but it’s only a matter of time before they explode.

Second chance points

Have to dominate the boards tonight. The Nets rank first in the NBA in second-chance points over the last 10 games. During that stretch, they are also 3rd in offensive rebounding and 10th in rebounding overall. With that being said, the Nuggets are great at keeping teams off the offensive glass. They are first in preventing opponent second-chance points, but they might meet their match tonight. With Jokic, Green, Gordon, and Cousins, Denver has the size advantage over Brooklyn. Right now, the Nets are basically starting three guards, a small forward, and a rookie center. They have proven to be a gritty bunch inside of late, but the Nuggets hold that advantage and they need to demonstrate it tonight.

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