Nuggets return home, try to cool off Nets

The Denver Nuggets won nine of their first 10 games in large part because of their defense. It has been a focus for this season, and it seems to be working well, and it was on point in Memphis on Wednesday.

It was the offense that was lacking in an 89-87 loss to the Grizzlies.

The good news for the Nuggets (9-2) is they are heading home, where they are 6-0 and have no trouble scoring. They host the Brooklyn Nets, who have won two straight and three of their last four. Denver will try to turn rebound from a loss in which it shot 39 percent and scored 17 points in the fourth quarter.

The goal is keeping the defensive effort the same.

“My hope is that as the year goes on, our defense remains a constant,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after Wednesday’s loss. “It’s an anchor to our team no matter what’s going on on offense.”

The goal is keeping the defensive effort the same.

Improving on the offense might prove surprisingly tough against a resurgent Nets team. Brooklyn (5-6) has allowed 89.5 points over the last two games — both blowout wins, and is getting contributions from all over the floor.

That balance has made it difficult for Kenneth Faried to get on the floor, and it is unlikely he’ll see many — if any — minutes against his former team. Faried, Denver’s first-round pick in 2011, was known as an energy player and a favorite with Denver fans, but he fell out of the rotation last season.

He played 32 games and averaged 14.4 minutes, losing playing time to Mason Plumlee and Trey Lyles. Last summer the Nuggets sent him, Darrell Arthur and two draft picks to Brooklyn in what essentially became a salary dump. Faried is making $13.7 million in the final season of his contract.

He hasn’t been able to crack the rotation in Brooklyn. Coach Kenny Atkinson said preseason ankle surgery set back Faried’s development.

“It’s a situational thing,” Atkinson told The New York Post. “The other guys have got to start playing badly for him to get a chance. He’s been great, he understood that and been a man about it.”

Faried has said he is more concerned about the team’s success than his own and he is just waiting for his opportunity.

“I know all the plays, I know what we’re supposed to do, I know everything as far as basketball goes,” Faried told The New York Post. “I’ve just got to wait for the opportunity and when your number is called. So I’m just waiting for that.”

The Nets might rightly be building for the future but after Denver’s fast start, the future is now. The team revolves around center Nikola Jokic, who is a dynamic 7-foot playmaker but has inexplicably been reluctant to score lately. He averaged 21.6 points in October but his offense has disappeared in November.

He has taken only 18 shots in four games, and the only one he took in Memphis was a missed 3-pointer in the final seconds that would have won it.

Before the game, he was hit with a $25,000 fine for a derogatory joke made after a win in Chicago on Oct. 31.

The Nuggets aren’t panicking. Even with Jokic’s quiet offense, the team is 3-1 in November and is in the midst of playing six of seven games at home. Jokic is still making a difference, averaging 7.8 assists in the last four games.