The Brooklyn Nets have brought their tendency for tight finishes on the road. Through 10 games, the Nets have played eight “clutch” games, defined by the NBA as a game within five points with less than five minutes left.
“I think we’re going to have to fight our tails off for a playoff berth,” said head coach Kenny Atkinson of the close games before the Nets departed on their five-game road trip last week. “I really do. I think it’s gonna be a fight. That’s respect for when I look at the teams we have to play. This road trip, there’s nothing given. I think we all understand that. This is not gonna be a cakewalk. We’re going to have to really scratch and claw to be in those top eight, and we’re looking forward to the challenge. Yes, we can do it. Still, the proof is in the pudding.”
With a 4-4 record in those eight games, the Nets are outscoring opponents by an average of 3.1 points per game in clutch situations.
Digging deeper, six of Brooklyn’s 10 games have been within three points or less — single-possession games — in the final minute.
On the first three games of this road trip, the Nets have had a four-point win and a four-point loss, the latter a 119-115 final against Utah on Tuesday night.
“We had our opportunities,” said Atkinson after the game. “No moral victories, we had our opportunities. There’s a few things we could have [done]. We could have made a few more plays quite honestly, both offensively and defensively. It’s such a fine line between winning and losing. But I liked our execution. I thought our defense was much better than it was the other night so there are a lot of positives, a lot to build on from this game.”
JORDAN: BACK AND BOARDING
DeAndre Jordan matched his season-high with 17 rebounds Tuesday night against Utah, adding 15 points for his second straight double-double. Jordan had missed the first game of the road trip in Portland last Friday with an ankle sprain suffered four days earlier against New Orleans.
Jordan is 12th in the NBA with 10.4 rebounds per game, and he’s second in rebound percentage (21.2) and second in rebounds per 36 minutes (16.8) behind only overall rebounding leader Andre Drummond.
DINWIDDIE ON THE ROAD
Spencer Dinwiddie has heated up on Brooklyn’s road trip, beginning with his 34 points in Friday’s win at Portland. Over the Nets’ three games on the road, he’s averaging 24.3 points while shooting 48.0 percent overall and 42.9 percent from 3-point range.
Second-year swingman Dzanan Musa has been picking up a growing role during Brooklyn’s road trip after playing a total of six minutes while appearing in just two of Brooklyn’s first seven games.
Musa had 12 points and six rebounds against Phoenix on Sunday, then had nine points while making 4-of-5 shots, including a deep 3-pointer, against Utah on Tuesday.
Caris LeVert missed Tuesday’s game with a right thumb sprain and is again listed as out for Thursday’s game in Denver. Kyrie Irving is questionable with a right shoulder impingement.
NETS SIGN SHUMPERT
The Nets have signed guard Iman Shumpert, filling a roster spot that became available with the move of Wilson Chandler to the NBA’s suspended list.
Shumpert has eight years of NBA experience, averaging 7.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. He split last season between Sacramento and Houston. He was a teammate of Kyrie Irving for two seasons in Cleveland, including the 2016 NBA championship team.
ABOUT THE NUGGETS
The Nuggets are 7-3 after Tuesday night’s loss to Atlanta snapped a four-game winning streak.
The Nuggets offer a stylistic counter to Brooklyn, ranking 30th in pace (97.52) and 25th in 3-point attempts per game (29.5). The Nets are fifth in pace (106.24) and sixth in 3-point attempts (36.0).
But Denver limits turnovers (fourth, 13.9) and is 10th in assists (24.7). Center Nikola Jokic is their smooth-passing offensive fulcrum, averaging 6.1 assists with 17.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.
Jamal Murray leads Denver with 18.7 points per game, plus 4.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. Will Barton is shooting 53.1 percent from 3-point range on 4.0 attempts per game and averages 15.6 points and 7.9 rebounds.