The Denver Nuggets nearly pulled off a perfect road trip through the east coast, and now they head home trying to reach a milestone that has eluded them so far this season.
A winning record.
Denver had a chance to get that in Brooklyn on Tuesday night but couldn’t hold an 18-point lead against the Nets. A win there would have given the Nuggets three straight wins and a record above .500. They have a chance to get there with a three-game homestand that starts Thursday against the Golden State Warriors.
Denver has had an uneven start to this year after coming out of the gates last season with a 12-2 record. Injuries and COVID-19 protocols have been a factor and will continue to be against Golden State.
Dynamic scorer Michael Porter Jr. has missed seven games due to issues with the coronavirus, and his return last week was delayed after sitting out three games. Hours before he was to return against Dallas he was ruled out with what coach Michael Malone said Tuesday was due to COVID.
The Nuggets were also without Gary Harris on Tuesday for personal reasons, a defensive presence that would have helped during a 29-4 run by the Nets.
Without Porter and Harris, Malone inserted Bol Bol into the starting lineup. Bol had five points in 16 minutes and was given the assignment of guarding Kevin Durant.
“Bol’s been working very hard,” Malone said. “So this was just an opportunity for him to go out there, play with the starting group, have a chance to match up with a guy like Kevin Durant and maybe use his 7-foot-2 frame, 7-9 wingspan to maybe make things difficult.”
It is doubtful Bol will be asked to guard Stephen Curry or James Wiseman on Thursday night. Having Harris back would be a help against Curry, who can hit from nearly anywhere on the court. He has been held in check the past two games, going for 11 against Toronto and 20 in a loss to Indiana on Tuesday night.
Without Klay Thompson and with Durant in Brooklyn, teams are focused on stopping Curry.
“People are going to throw everything at Steph,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “That’ll be a big theme this season and we’ve got to do a better job of attacking what people are throwing at us, and we’ll get better at it.”
Thompson is out for the year after tearing his Achilles in November, and Eric Paschall is quarantined for the NBA’s health and safety protocol, which does not mean he has tested positive for COVID-19. He missed Tuesday’s game and will be out against Denver.
“We’ve got to make up for Eric’s loss and it’s a big loss with the way he’s been playing,” Kerr said.
The NBA modified its rules regarding COVID-19, tightening restrictions on players and coaches due to an uptick of cases and games being postponed.
“I think everybody’s got to be committed to that and stop thinking about themselves and think about the collective good of their teams and the entire NBA,” Malone said.