Nets-Nuggets Preview

The Associated Press

The woeful New Jersey Nets continue to falter due in large part to their first-quarter scuffles.

Keeping up with the Denver Nuggets early on could prove difficult.

Hoping to get rolling right out of the gate, the Nets try to avoid a fifth consecutive road loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday night.

New Jersey (2-8) is scoring 87.0 points per game to rank near the bottom of the league and has been especially bad following the opening tip-off, posting an NBA-low average of 18.2 points during the opening quarter.

Coach Avery Johnson's team saw its first-quarter struggles continue during Monday's 106-101 loss to Atlanta. New Jersey trailed 31-18 following the first 12 minutes and was ultimately handed its eighth defeat in nine games.

"We have to get off to a better start obviously. I don't know if it's low energy but we're not putting a lot of pressure on defensively and offensively we are not executing," said swingman Anthony Morrow, who's gone 13 of 23 (56.5 percent) from 3-point range in averaging 18.3 points over his last three games.

"The good thing is I'm glad we fought back and got back in the game. To have to claw back like that, we should start off better and put ourselves in a better position to win the game."

New Jersey has been outscored by an average of 7.3 points in the first quarter during its four-game road skid to Denver (6-4), which ranks among the highest-scoring teams in the league with 101.7 points per game. The Nuggets' average of 25.3 points in the first quarter is also among the best in the NBA.

After opening 4-0 at the Pepsi Center, Denver suffered its first home loss Monday, 94-81 to New Orleans.

"Our schedule has been pretty high level and intense and difficult," coach George Karl told the team's official website. "We survived it. This loss isn't going to throw away all the good basketball we've played, but it's going to make us go back and hopefully be humbled by the defeat and go out and work hard and figure out how to get better."

Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson each had 15 points while reserve Al Harrington, who ranks third on the team with 14.4 per game, scored a season-low two.

"It just seemed like we had dead legs," Harrington said. "We just weren't ourselves and, as a result, we weren't getting up and down the court like we usually do. We just have to lick our wounds ... and beat New Jersey on Wednesday."

After missing three of the previous four games with a strained left heel, Nene returned to record just nine points on 3-of-8 shooting. He did, however, have a season-best 11 rebounds.

"I don't want to play the way I played (Monday)," Nene said. "The team doesn't want to play the way it did (Monday). It's hard. Sometimes we need this kind of loss to keep you humble and make you work hard."

The Nuggets, who also fell 121-117 at San Antonio on Saturday, haven't lost three straight since last January. Denver has dropped back-to-back home games just twice over the previous four seasons.

New Jersey's Deron Williams had 15 points and a season-high 14 assists for his second double-double in as many games Monday. He averaged 21.4 and 11.3, respectively, in his last 17 meetings against Denver while with Utah.

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