NEW YORK (AP) – Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone sensed that his team would play down to a Brooklyn Nets team that was missing three of their best players, including All-Star guard James Harden.
The Nuggets needed the Austin Rivers, who scored 22 of their 25 points in the second half, and Nikola Jokics 26 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists to beat the Nets 124-118 Wednesday night.
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Denver jumped out to an early 17-8 lead before the Nets shook off their early games to get one behind at the end of the first quarter.
“We may not have played perfect basketball, but we win matches,” Malone said. “In the end, it’s all that matters. A lot of the NBA is like winning the games you have to, and there’s no lack of respect for a team like Detroit or those Brooklyn Nets – obviously all the guys they have out there. . “
Aside from Harden, who had the night off to rest a sick left hind thigh after playing 38 minutes in Tuesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Nets are without Kevin Durant (sprained left knee ligament) and Kyrie Irving (vaccination status).
Rookie Cam Thomas scored 25 points and Patty Mills added 21 points for Brooklyn, which has lost three games in a row.
“Just not enough against a very good team,” said Nets coach Steve Nash. “We played well for long stretches, but we probably didn’t take care of enough details to shut it out.”
The Nets are now 6-10 in January after having 8-3 in December.
Denver also got 21 points and 10 rebounds from Will Barton and 13 points off the bench from DeMarcus Cousins to win his last three games and eight of 13.
Brooklyn was up 65-54 at halftime, and Denver reduced it to 77-70 with 7:39 left in the third period.
The Nuggets then outscored the Nets 22-7 in six minutes, with the Rivers hitting three 3-pointers, the last of which put Denver ahead 92-84.
Rivers connected on three more 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
“I’m a goal scorer. I can score the ball,” said Rivers, who shot 8 to 11 from the field, including 7 to 10 from long range. “I really feel like I can do this consistently. But obviously I have my role here. So I try to get out every night and be aggressive, and you just look for those opportunities. “
Brooklyn had a chance to get within two points with 3:22 left in the regulation. LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored 18 points, missed two free throws.
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Aaron Gordon then responded with a stepback baseline jumper to 118-113 before James Johnson made a free throw to cut Denver’s lead 118-114 with 1:52 left of the match.
Brooklyn’s offense sputtered down the stretch, missing five straight shots while Denver went on a 6-0 run, limited by Monte Morris’ layup by 45 seconds to play to increase the lead 124-114.
Nuggets: Barton was back in the starting lineup after missing Tuesday night’s victory in Detroit due to a sprain in his right hind thigh. … Cousins got two technical errors. The first came with 42 seconds left of the third quarter and he was thrown out after picking up the second with 11:17 left in the final period.
Net: Rookie Center Day’ron Sharpe was not played due to an illness unrelated to COVID-19.
HOME IS BROOKLYN
Nets coach Steve Nash believes Harden’s frustration is that the Nets have been fighting since the team’s COVID-19 outbreak in December – not because he’s unhappy in Brooklyn.
“Ever since the return of covid, it’s been very average basketball,” Nash said. “So we have higher expectations and it’s frustrating, but I definitely think James is happy here.”
Denver has improved to 2-0 on its current six-game road trip, their second-longest of the season. The Nuggets played seven straight away games between Nov. 29 and Dec. 11, 4-3.
Nuggets: In New Orleans Friday night. The Nuggets have won three just over the Pelicans.
Net: Starts a five-match tour of the Western Conference Saturday night in Golden State. The Warriors sent the Nets 117-99 on November 16th.
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