Nets seek to get back on track against Nuggets

While the Brooklyn Nets are playing better of late after a rough stretch with their newcomers, they are struggling with consistently getting rebounds.

After starting a critical four-game homestand by getting outmuscled on the boards against the Sacramento Kings, the Nets hope to correct their rebounding issues Sunday afternoon when they host Nikola Jokic and the suddenly struggling Denver Nuggets.

Brooklyn (39-31) heads into Sunday averaging 40.3 rebounds per game, which is 29th in the league. The Nets have been outrebounded in three straight games and in five of their past six, including Thursday when they did not get any second-chance points and were outrebounded 57-41 in 101-96 loss to Sacramento.

Included in their rebounding woes was being unable to stop Sacramento star Domantas Sabonis from getting 21 rebounds and a double-double by halftime. Last week they eked out a 122-120 victory in Denver, when the Nets survived getting outrebounded 49-28 and allowing 20 boards to Jokic.

"The next team we've got has another guy that wants to get 20 rebounds," Brooklyn's Cameron Johnson said. "We've got to crash (the boards) and put a real emphasis."

"It can't just be two guys," said Brooklyn center Nic Claxton, whose 9.2 rebounds per game lead the team. "It needs to be a five-man effort."

Brooklyn heads into Sunday with five wins in eight games and two games behind the fifth-place New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference.

Besides the rebounding, the Nets are hoping their offense comes alive again. After averaging 115.6 points in a six-game span March 3-12, the Nets have shot 41.9 percent in losses to Oklahoma City and Sacramento.

Denver (47-24) has its playoff spot and Northwest Division title secure, but those accolades are occurring during a rough patch.

After winning 22 of 28 games from Jan. 5 to March 6, the Nuggets have dropped five of their past six games.

Denver stopped its season-worst four-game losing streak with a 119-100 victory in Detroit Thursday night but struggled down the stretch of its 116-110 loss in New York Saturday afternoon.

The Nuggets shot 51.2 percent, marking the fourth straight game they shot at least 50 percent. Denver shot 54.5 percent and scored 91 points through the first three quarters but faltered in the fourth by missing 11 of 18 shots and being held to 19 points after getting outscored 16-5 in the final minutes of the third.

"Big stretch was that end of the third quarter," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "They close on a 20-7 run, took all the momentum going into the fourth quarter, and then they close the game on a 10-2 run and we just can't turn the ball over that many times, especially in the second half, fourth quarter."

Jokic scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds but has been held under 15 boards in six of his past seven games. In the fourth quarter on Saturday, he was 2 of 6 from the field and grabbed two boards, capping a game when Denver was outrebounded 43-33.