Preview: Denver Nuggets continue road trip with second matchup against Nets

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

The Nuggets will continue their road trip in Brooklyn on Sunday with their second game against the Nets in the past month. After a tough 108-95 loss to the Boston Celtics on Friday the Nuggets enter Sunday’s matchup at 14-6 and 1-1 on this road trip.

A matchup against the Knicks on Thursday helped Denver’s offense break out of its slump, as the Nuggets finished with 38 assists and knocked down 21 3-pointers in the comfortable victory. Denver continues to win on the other end of the floor, using the league’s second-ranked defense to suffocate opposing offenses on a nightly basis.

However, the offense continues to be more miss than hit this season, as Denver shot just 5 of 30 from beyond the arc in a 95-point performance against Boston. The Nuggets continue to search for consistency on the offensive end of the floor heading into Sunday’s contest.

The Nets (12-10) have turned their season around since they lost to the Nuggets at Pepsi Center on Nov. 14, going 8-3 since that contest, with most of that success coming without Kyrie Irving, who continues to miss time with a shoulder injury. Over the past two weeks, Brooklyn’s offense has ranked in the top 10 in the league, while its defense has continued to improve as well, hovering around the league average in during stretch.

In the first meeting between the teams, Denver won 101-93 on the back of strong defense and a balanced scoring attack. Seven players scored in double figures for the Nuggets in that November contest.

READ MORE: How NYC developed Nuggets’ Michael Malone

Here are three keys to Sunday’s matchup:

Limiting Spencer Dinwiddie’s impact

As mentioned earlier, even though Irving has been out for half of Brooklyn’s games this season, the Nets have continued to win in recent weeks. This resurgence has mainly been fueled by Spencer Dinwiddie, who has seized the opportunity as the Nets’ lead guard over this stretch.

Over his last 10 games, Dinwiddie is averaging 24.9 points and 7.1 assists per game for Brooklyn in nearly 33 minutes per game. Although Dinwiddie had established himself as one of the premier bench players in the league in recent seasons, he has clearly showcased his ability to lead an offense in recent weeks.

The Nuggets have had success limiting lead guards this season, mainly fueled by Gary Harris’ effort on the perimeter and impressive interior defense from Paul Millsap. If the Nuggets hope to sweep the season series against Brooklyn, holding Dinwiddie in check will be crucial in achieving that goal.

Holding Brooklyn off the offensive glass

Once again, the Nuggets find themselves matching up against a team that thrives on the boards, and specifically the offensive glass. After matching up with the Lakers and Knicks over the past week, Denver will have to limit Brooklyn’s offensive rebounding, where the Nets have found success this season.

Brooklyn ranks second in the league in offensive rebounding percentage this season, with Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan forming a dynamic one-two punch on the glass. The Nuggets currently rank seventh in opponent offensive rebound percentage, so Denver has done a good job in limiting second-chance opportunities this season. Once again, that will play a key role in deciding Sunday’s contest.

Exploiting Brooklyn’s defensive shot chart

The Nets take a very analytical approach to their shot charts on both ends of the floor. On the offensive end, they rank near the top of the league in 3-point attempts and are first in the frequency of shots coming at the rim. Meanwhile, Brooklyn looks to funnel teams into mid-range jumpers on the defensive end, as the Nets do an impressive job of limiting 3-point attempts and shots at the rim.

For Jamal Murray and the Nuggets, this should sound like music to their ears. Denver ranks in the top five of frequency of mid-range jumpers this season, whereas they are essentially league average in attempts around the rim and are in the bottom five of 3-point attempt frequency.

Although Denver is right around league average in their shooting percentage from the mid-range, the Nets’ drop coverage scheme in the pick-and-roll (when the center stays back in the paint to discourage drives to the basket) has allowed teams to find success in the mid-range against Brooklyn this season. The Nets are 24th in opponent field-goal percentage from the mid-range, so look for the Nuggets to attack that area of the floor.

Projected starters: Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton III, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokić

Sunday’s game will tip-off at 1 p.m. MT and will air on Altitude (Radio: KKSE 92.5FM).

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