Denver Nuggets 116, Brooklyn Nets 122: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou Staff Writer

The Nuggets (5-6) led by as many as 18 points against the Nets (6-6), but it wasn’t enough to secure an undefeated road trip for Michael Malone’s team. Brooklyn rallied back on the heels of an explosive third quarter and secured a 122-116 win against Denver. 
Nikola Jokić continued to show why he’s arguably the best player in the NBA at the moment, putting up 23 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds and a career-high seven steals. Will Barton III added a season-high 22 points. The Nets were led by Kevin Durant, who had 34 points on 12-of-18 shooting to go along with 13 assists and nine rebounds. 

"We couldn't execute, we couldn't score and we turned the ball over, so just an unfortunate way to end this road trip," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said.  

Denver now returns home after finishing 2-1 on the East Coast and will look to bounce back against the Warriors (6-4) Thursday night (8 p.m. MT, TNT). 

Here are the takeaways:

Joker and Thrill-er
Nikola Jokić nearly had a quadruple-double. Let’s repeat that, Jokić was two rebounds and three assists away from being the fifth player in NBA history to notch a quadruple-double. That’s how good the Serbian has been this season. The others are Nate Thurmond, Alvin Robertson, Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson, according to Basketball Reference.
Jokić, who is currently tied for the league in triple-doubles with Russell Westbrook at four, is having an all-time season for a center. As good as he’s been in scoring, rebounding and dropping dimes, he continues to evolve and his ability to disrupt the passing lanes continues to get stronger each season. He is currently averaging a career-high 1.8 steals per game. 

Barton III added three steals. Thrill was prolific from downtown, hitting 6 of 8 from that range. The Nuggets bench also stood out as Monte Morris led the reserves with 14 on 6-of-7 shooting. 
Poor quarter trend continues 
In the opening 24 minutes, the Nuggets were at their peak and controlled both ends of the court. This was a group that shot that put up 70 points on 56.8 percent shooting against a Brooklyn team that entered Tuesday’s contest with league’s seventh-best defensive rating. Denver also forced 11 turnovers, scoring 14 off giveaways. Denver entered the break with a 16-point lead. It all came crumbling down in the third quarter. 
Durant started firing and sparked his team with 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting. The Nets would proceed to go on a devastating 29-4 run in the third quarter. It was a sequence the Nuggets had little answers for. The group shot just 42.9 percent, including 25 percent from downtown, and had five turnovers which Brooklyn converted into eight points. 

"We've had a little bit of success lately because we defended at a high level. In that second half, they scored 68 points. They shot 69 percent...So the defense or lack thereof, got them going," Malone explained. 
In all but one of Nuggets’ opening 10 games of the season, the team has conceded a quarter where they absolutely dominated in. The second quarter has typically been the area where Denver has struggled, having a -6.7 net rating (21st in the NBA) in the quarter. On Tuesday, the trend moved to the third. The Nuggets will need to address this issue with the Warriors traveling to the Mile High City Thursday. 

"I feel like now we're the hunted," Morris said. "Everyone is hunting to get us because they've seen our success. For us to make that leap, we have to start hooping and playing like that underdog team that we were. We want to prove ourselves and we can't come out complacent like we already won a championship or something. I think going forward that's what we have to do." 

Bol Bol first career start 
With Gary Harris sidelined due to personal reasons, Malone surprised many by moving Will Barton III to the shooting guard position and slotting in Bol Bol at the small forward position. It was the 7-foot-2 player’s first career start and a baptism of fire of sorts. 
Bol lined up against Durant and was one of several players tasked with guarding arguably the league’s best scorer. That would be an unenviable task for most NBA players, but it especially is for someone who has seen sporadic involvement in the Nuggets rotation this season. Despite some up and downs, Bol had an outing that he can learn from and build upon. 

"[I started him due to] size and length [and] Bol has been working very hard," Malone said. "This was an opportunity for him to go out there and play with the starting group and have a chance to match up with a guy like Kevin Durant and maybe use his 7-foot-2 frame, 7-foot-9 wingspan to maybe make things difficult." 
The 2019 second rounder finished the night playing 16 minutes and put up five points and two rebounds. 

"For me it was about playing hard throughout the whole thing," Bol said. "I know KD makes tough shots, but I kept playing through mistakes and everything. That was the best part." 


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