|Nuggets aim to get defense on track versus Nets|
The Brooklyn Nets and host Denver Nuggets meet in a nationally televised game on Thursday night, but neither team enters the matchup feeling great about their last game.
A win for one of them might temporarily relieve the sting of tough losses. The Nets blew a 15-point halftime lead in a 119-114 setback at Utah on Tuesday night while Denver watched Atlanta win 125-121 in the Mile High City.
The 125 points were the most the Nuggets have allowed this season, barely eclipsing the 122 they gave up at New Orleans in a loss to the Pelicans. The Hawks outscored Denver by 18 in the second and third quarters, when the game turned, and Atlanta shot 68.2 percent over those 24 minutes.
The defense has been a concern, especially after Hawks guard Trae Young scored a season-high 42 points in the win.
"In our three losses this year we've defended no one," coach Michael Malone said after the loss. "Trae Young came in here and did exactly what we knew he was going to do."
Malone emphasized defense last year, particularly from 3-point range, and the Nuggets went from the bottom of the league to one of the best in defending the arc. That wasn't the case against the Hawks, who shot 44.1 percent from long range.
Denver will have to figure out how to stop another talented guard in Brooklyn's Kyrie Irving. Irving leads the Nets in scoring at 29.7 points a game, and he's also handing out 7.0 assists. Irving attacks the basket more than someone like Young, and Malone will have to be ready to adapt on the fly.
"I've got to do a better job of making in-game adjustments," Malone said Tuesday. "Young dominated the game and I didn't make adjustments to help our guys."
The Nuggets have an advantage in that their roster is mostly the same from the last couple of years. Brooklyn is 4-6 after two straight losses and is still adjusting to new faces, particularly Irving, who signed as a free agent over the summer.
Those growing pains have shown through in the start of this road trip.
"I do think we're building something with the new group," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. "I don't feel, 'Oh, you know we're not together.' I feel good about our group, I feel good about our process, I feel good about our system, I feel good about our players. These are tough games. The Utahs, the Denvers on the road. I like the way we competed."
Brooklyn has dealt with injuries to Caris LeVert, a suspension of forward Wilson Chandler for violating the league's anti-drug policy and the off-court issue of CEO David Levy parting ways with the organization just 55 days after being brought on due to philosophical reasons.
LeVert's sprained thumb kept him out of Tuesday's game and Atkinson chose to start Garrett Temple at shooting guard and keep Spencer Dinwiddie coming off the bench.
If LeVert is unable to Denver, it's likely Atkinson will use the same lineup.
--Field Level Media