CHARLOTTE – The Denver Nuggets may be sitting pretty atop the Western Conference and boast the two-time National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic.
But, according to Mikal Bridges, the key to toppling them was not aiming for perfection.
He scored 25 points while Spencer Dinwiddie had 15 points and 16 assists as the visiting Brooklyn Nets beat Denver 122-120 on Sunday. This despite Jokic racking up 35 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists for his 27th triple-double of the season.
Dinwiddie and Bridges are recent arrivals in Brooklyn, as part of the trades that saw All-Stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving leave the Nets for the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks respectively.
Said Bridges of adjusting to his new teammates: “Even if we don’t know what we’re doing sometimes, just scrambling, all five guys help each other.
“Sometimes, it’s not going to be perfect, but I think just the next guy stepping up is the biggest thing.”
Denver’s Michael Porter Jr scored 23 points, Jamal Murray had 16 before sitting out the fourth quarter with a sore knee and Aaron Gordon finished with 13 for the Nuggets.
Denver have lost three straight overall and their last two home games.
For the Nets, Nic Claxton had 20 points, Dorian Finney-Smith scored 15, Cameron Johnson added 14, Seth Curry had 12 points and Royce O’Neal finished with 11.
The Nets have won five of their last six.
Said Nets coach Jacque Vaughn: “We started to fly around, 15 turnovers we produced tonight, our ability to be disruptive.
“We stayed together for an impressive win on the road.”
Brooklyn led by 10 early in the second quarter but a 15-2 run later gave Denver a 60-55 lead. Murray’s 34-footer at the horn gave the Nuggets a 69-61 half-time lead.
The Nets dominated the third quarter.
A 21-6 run gave them a 92-83 lead before Murray soon hit a three-pointer that cut the deficit to five, but O’Neale and Joe Harris hit threes that gave Brooklyn a 98-87 lead heading into the fourth.
It was 109-94 early in the fourth before Denver started to chip away. Christian Braun hit a trey and Jokic converted a three-point play to make it 109-100.
A Finney-Smith three-pointer made it 116-105, but Brooklyn went cold from the field, allowing the Nuggets to rally.
A three-point play by Braun and a floater by Jokic got the Nuggets within 116-110. The Nets missed again and Jokic fed Bruce Brown for a three, Bridges missed from 27 feet and Jokic’s turnaround made it 116-115.
Finney-Smith fed Dinwiddie for a baseline jumper and hit a three to make it 121-117. Jokic hit two free throws, Braun blocked Dinwiddie and Jokic split a pair of foul shots to make it 121-120 with 41.6 seconds left.
After a successful challenge on a foul call on Jokic, Denver had two chances to take the lead but Brown and Jokic missed short jumpers.
Bridges split a pair of free throws with 1.8 seconds left and Jokic missed a three at the buzzer.
Said Nuggets coach Michael Malone: “Tough loss. Our guys fought back, gave ourselves a chance at the end.”
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, R.J. Barrett scored 13 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter as the New York Knicks stopped a three-game losing streak by holding on for a 112-108 victory over the Lakers on Sunday night.
Julius Randle led the Knicks with 33 points after shooting five-of-24 in Saturday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, but it was Barrett playing the role of closer.
Lakers’ All-Star forward Anthony Davis, who had 17 points and 16 rebounds, told ESPN: “I played terrible. Couldn’t find my shot: free throws, layups, everything. The guys did their job. I didn’t do my job tonight.” REUTERS