Nuggets, Nets both dealing with injury hardships
The Brooklyn Nets struggled to contain Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo and for the first time in two months, they are on a three-game losing streak.
Brooklyn's next task is to contain Nikola Jokic on Wednesday night when they host the Denver Nuggets in a matchup of banged-up teams.
The Nets (28-27) are on their first three-game losing streak since dropping eight straight from Nov. 21-Dec 5. They went 20-6 in 26 games before the skid began with a 117-114 loss at San Antonio on Thursday.
Two days after a 102-89 loss in Orlando, the Nets allowed Antetokounmpo to get 30 points and 15 rebounds in a 113-94 home loss to league-leading Milwaukee. Besides being unable to stop Antetokounmpo, the Nets shot a season-low 32.4 percent and made just 5 of 42 3-point attempts as their nine-game home winning streak ended.
The Nets enter Wednesday's game after scoring less than 95 points in consecutive games for the first time since coach Kenny Atkinson took the job in 2016. They also are hoping to rebound from their worst shooting percentage since moving to Brooklyn in 2012.
The Nets played Monday with five players sidelined as Joe Harris sat out with a sore right hip to join Caris LeVert (right foot) Spencer Dinwiddie (right thumb) Allen Crabbe (sore right knee) and Jared Dudley (strained left hamstring) on the sidelines.
Harris leads the Nets in 3-point shooting at 45.3 percent and could return Wednesday while LeVert and Crabbe practiced with the G-League team Tuesday and may return before the All-Star break.
Even with the injuries, it is a struggle offensively in the last two weeks even in some of the wins.
Since getting a blowout win over Sacramento on Jan. 21, the Nets are averaging 106.6 points, shooting 40.7 percent and averaging 22.9 assists while losing four of their last seven games. Before then, they averaged 115.5 points, shot 47.4 percent and averaged 25 assists.
"Part of it is us not making shots. But we've been in a little bit of a -- the last seven, eight games -- a shooting funk for whatever reason. We've got to figure it out," Atkinson said. "We held the fort defensively, should've given us a chance to be in the game if our offense was at any kind of a normal level."
Getting their offense at a normal level includes more than just D'Angelo Russell, who scored 18 points but shot 7 of 20. Shabazz Napier finished with 15 but shot 4 of 15 and missed on all 10 3-point attempts and no other Net finished with more than 10 points.
Denver (37-16) is coming off a 129-103 loss at Detroit and is hoping to avoid consecutive losses for the first time since Dec. 22-26. Since their last losing streak, the Nuggets are 16-5.
On Monday, the Nuggets turned in one of their worst performances with a makeshift lineup due to numerous injuries. Starting forward Paul Millsap (sore left ankle) and starting guards Gary Harris (groin) and Jamal Murray (sprained left ankle) sat out.
The replacements were Mason Plumlee, Malik Beasley, and Monte Morris, who combined for 49 points. Being short-handed forced coach Mike Malone to play Trey Lyles at center, Juancho Hernangomez as a power forward and seldom-used Tyler Lydon at small forward during various points, including the opening minutes of the second quarter when the Nuggets were outscored 34-19.
"We had a few guys just kind of give into it and not continue to fight," Malone said. "That can't be who are."
Besides the injuries, the Nuggets turned in one of their worst rebounding displays all season. Nikola Jokic, who had six double-doubles in his previous seven games, finished with a season-low three boards and Denver was outrebounded 53-32.
"We were not ready to play basketball tonight," Jokic said.
Harris has missed three straight games, Murray has missed six straight games and both could be out again Wednesday. Without them, the replacements have played well as Morris is averaging 17.7 points and seven assists in his last three games while Beasley is averaging 23.8 points on 62.1 percent shooting in his past four games.
In the first meeting, Brooklyn claimed a 112-110 win on Nov. 9 when LeVert hit the game-winning jumper at the buzzer.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 5, 2019