The Brooklyn Nets fell to the Denver Nuggets 122-117 on Friday night in Brooklyn, their second loss to Denver in the last eight days. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic were the two best players on the court on Friday night, as I predicted they would be, combining for 63 points, 16 rebounds, and 16 assists.
The story of the game was not the play of Jokic and Murray or the play Mikal Bridges, who struggled yet again, but Jacque Vaughn's coaching blunder.
Did Jacque Vaughn cost the Nets the game?
With 18.1 seconds, Denver led 116-114. Jamal Murray missed the second of two free throws, but was able to secure his own rebound, was promptly fouled, and made both free throws, extending the Nuggets lead to 118-114.
If you take a closer look at the Nets alignment, neither Nic Claxton nor Day'Ron Sharpe, Brooklyn's two big men, were in the game.
All four Nets were so focused on boxing out their man that none even attempted to grab the rebound. It was a particular lineup choice by Vaughn not to have two of the NBA's best rebounding centers in the game when Brooklyn needed a rebound the most.
Vaughn spoke after the game about the game-changing decision
Vaughn is right about one thing. With limited timeouts, the Nets had to take a calculated risk. Even if Murray hit that free throw, Brooklyn would have been trailing by just three points with 18.2 seconds left, which would have given them enough time to get a quick two. They did not need a lineup comprised of five three-point shooters on the floor at that point.
Brooklyn had taken all the momentum in the game after Cam Thomas's crazy four-point play that caught the Denver lead to 115-114, but after Murray secured the board, the game was over, and the wind was sucked out of the Barclays Center.