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On Friday night, the Nets were defeated by the Denver Nuggets, 109-87.

The Skinny: Both teams were without a starter. The Nets played their third straight game without Joe Johnson while the Nuggets played without starting point guard Ty Lawson. Reggie Evans began this game where he left off in Portland, scoring seven points and grabbing six rebounds. Kostos Koufos led the Nuggets with 10 points in the opening quarter and helped the Nuggets take a 26-23 lead into the second quarter.

The Nuggets opened up the game in the second quarter, outscoring the Nets 29-15. C.J. Watson, Jerry Stackhouse and Andray Blatche were unable to match the proficiency of Evan Fournier. Fournier scored nine points in the second for the Nuggets, who also got good minutes from Danilo Gallinari and Corey Brewer.

By midway through the third, the Nets found themselves trailing by as many as 22 points. The Nuggets were able to leak out on missed shots, force a few turnovers and score easy transition hoops. By the end of the third quarter, though, the Nets cut the lead to 14 points after Williams drew a foul on McGee on one of the Nets final possessions of the quarter. By the end of the third, the Nuggets platoon of big men—McGee, Fareid and Koufos—were in foul trouble with five, five and four fouls, respectively.

With a back-to-back in Utah tomorrow night, the Nets only had about halfway through the fourth to make a rally before Carlesimo pulled the plug. Andray Blatche gave the Nets good minutes and scoring in the fourth, but they mostly traded baskets before Carlesimo pulled out his starters with less than four minutes remaining and the Nets trailing by 19 points. The final minutes were garbage time and the Nets never really threatened the Nuggets.

High Scorers: Deron Williams led the Nets with 19 (5-of-13 shooting), while reserve Evan Fournier led the Nuggets with 19 points off the bench.

Key Stats: The Nets trailed by double figures for most of the game, and they left a lot of points at the free-throw line. As a team, they were a woeful 18-of-36. The Nuggets reserves also sorely outscored the Nets, 60-37.

Who Was Hot: Andray Blatche ended up with 16 points off the bench for the Nets on 8-of-11 shooting. He grabbed five rebounds and chipped in two steals and three blocked shots.

Who Was Not: Brook Lopez was facing a tough task going up against the Nuggets platoon of bigs. He ended up just 4-of-15 from the field and shot just 3-of-9 from the free-throw line. He ended with 11 points and seven rebounds in just 23 minutes.

Fun Fact: This is probably a "not so" fun fact, but with the victory, the Nuggets improve to a league-best 33-3 at home.

Of all games on the road trip, this was bound to be the toughest to get. The Nets caught a break with the injury of Ty Lawson, but obviously, were unable to capitalize since the Nuggets are such a deep team.

The inability to keep Evan Fournier out of the paint may give the Nets some concern as it relates to the team's ability to keep smaller, quicker guards in check, but no sleep should be lost over coming up short in Denver. The team is now 4-2 on the trip and has an important game in Utah tomorrow night before returning back East and completing the trip at the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.

For Williams, Saturday night's game in Utah will be the second time he visits his former team. His first time was on Jan. 14, 2012. Williams shot 3-0f-15 and ended with 16 points and five turnovers in a 107-94 Nets loss.

On Saturday, the Nets will be playing for something, so the team hopes that he has better luck in his second showing in his former hometown.

The Knicks defeated the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night at Madison Square Garden, so the Nets now trail in the division by 3 1/2 games. After tomorrow, the Nets will have just nine games remaining, and a loss tomorrow would put the Nets four games behind in the division with only nine to play. It would be quite difficult to make up that kind of ground, so almost any hope of winning the Atlantic Division rests on getting a win in Salt Lake City on Saturday night.

Tags: Columns , Moke Hamilton
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