The Brooklyn Nets snapped a four-game losing streak and picked up a massive victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, earning a 125-119 win at Ball Arena.
A week ago the Nets were battling with the Philadelphia 76ers for first place in the Eastern Conference. Entering Saturday, Brooklyn was three-games back of first and tied with the Milwaukee Bucks for second place with the Bucks holding a tiebreaker over the Nets.
Despite the continued absence of James Harden (hamstring), Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving combined for 64 points, holding off MVP front-runner Nikola Jokic and a Nuggets team that entered 7-3 over their last 10 games.
Malika Andrews @malika_andrews
The Nets complete their second-largest comeback of the season, coming back from down 21 to defeat the Nuggets. <br><br>Brooklyn has now moved a half-game up on the Bucks for the No. 2 seed. As a reminder: Both teams remain tied in the loss column and the Bucks hold the tiebreaker.
With four games left in the regular season, Brooklyn can still make a play for the No. 1 overall seed in the East, but the margin for error remains as slim as possible.
Kevin Durant, SF, Brooklyn Nets: 33 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists
Kyrie Irving, PG, Brooklyn Nets: 31 points, 4 assists
Nikola Jokic, C, Denver Nuggets: 29 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists
Michael Porter Jr., SF, Denver Nuggets: 28 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists
Nets Snap Losing Streak
Following the club's fourth consecutive loss earlier this week, the Nets clubhouse was steadfast in their belief the victory draught would only make them tougher in the playoffs. Now that the streak has been snapped, it's on Brooklyn to prove the second half of the prophecy true.
Especially after four straight losses nearly became five straight in Denver.
The Nets had to rally back from down 21 in the first half and come up with multiple stops on Jokic in the paint to secure a win Saturday. Against a Nuggets team that should've been worn down, Brooklyn looked far more like the club playing for the second time in as many nights.
Denver shot 54.3 percent from the floor in the first half, while the Nets struggled to get much offense from anyone not named Durant or Irving. Finally, in the third quarter, Blake Griffin (20 points) was able to find his shot, scoring 16 in a frame for the first time since 2019 as the Nets shot a season-high 84 percent in the third overall.
And that still wasn't enough to take the lead back from Denver. Not until the Nuggets went cold in the fourth quarter (15 points) were the Nets able to take charge. Brooklyn regained the lead with just under six minutes remaining for the first time since Durant knocked down a three-pointer off the opening tipoff.
It would be Durant's defense down the stretch that locked up the win as he contested a hook shot at the rim from Jokic with 20 seconds left to preserve a three-point lead. Moments later, it was Jokic missing another runner that allowed Brooklyn to run out the clock and end the losing streak.
Now squarely in second place, Brooklyn has four games left to build up momentum for the playoffs. Saturday was a solid start, but things are far from solved in Nash's clubhouse.
Nuggets Bench Steps Up
Playing back-to-back elite opponents would’ve been reason enough to forgive the Nuggets for a lackluster performance on either end of their back-to-back this weekend.
Going from the rival Utah Jazz to the talent-laden Nets club is tough in the best of circumstances. Trying to defeat both in as many nights without the likes of Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon and Will Barton only made things tougher.
At least that was the case until Denver’s role players got a chance to showcase their skills.
Playing against a desperate Brooklyn team, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone had no choice but to tap into his club’s depth and see if fresher legs could make a difference. Very quickly the answer was a resounding yes.
Starting with 17 points in the first nine minutes for Michael Porter Jr.—who seemingly caught fire off the opening tip by making his first five three-pointers—the Nuggets earned massive contributions from the likes of Facundo Campazzo (19 points, five assists), Austin Rivers (12 points, five rebounds) and Markus Howard (13 points).
In fact, Howard scored more points Saturday than he had in any single month this season.
That was more than enough to complement another stellar night from Jokic, who once again served as the motor in Denver’s offense.
Campazzo, in particular, has done a fantastic job filling in for Murray (ACL), following up an April in which he averaged 7.9 points and 4.6 assists by upping his production to 14.4 points and 5.5 assists per game in May. As long as Denver has this type of depth available, it’ll be extremely tough for any team to beat it on a given night—let alone in four of seven games once the playoffs start.
A back-to-back that could’ve thrown the Nuggets off their rhythm instead proved just how in sync the title contenders are.
Brooklyn wraps up a five-game road trip against the Chicago Bulls at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday before returning home to face the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday. The Nuggets, meanwhile, wrap up the regular season with a four-game road trip beginning in Charlotte against the Hornets on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET.