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Disappointing Utah Jazz pay a visit to Brooklyn

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to go ahead and declare Sunday night’s loss to the Sixers the most excruciating of the season so far. Jimmy Butler, man. Dude can close. Frustrating. Anyway, if there’s a bright side, (you knew I’d find one) I remember all too well when this Nets team was bad bad. Like, 20 wins a season bad. It wasn’t too long ago, and I’m sure plenty of us spent way too much time watching Shane Larkin and thinking Well, maybe if Jarrett Jack comes back we can make a little run? Which, in hindsight, is one of saddest things a basketball fan can think. We’re not there anymore. Be glad.

The Jazz, who took an absolute beating at the hands of the Pacers on Monday, are coming to Brooklyn Wednesday to try and bounce back. They’re 9-12, one game better than the Nets, but sit 14th(!) in their conference. One reason is the West is both absolutely loaded as well as balanced out across the board. The other is that they can’t seem to get it together like they did last year.

One good week and the Jazz could find themselves with the fourth seed, and a bad one could drop their playoff odds to a dangerously low number. Let’s get into it.

Where To Follow The Game

YES and WFAN have this one at 7:30 p.m, ET.

Injuries

Caris Levert (foot) and Treveon Graham (hamstring) are still out. Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs return from their assignment in Long Island. The G League Nets don’t play again till Friday.

Donovan Mitchell, the star and leader of this Jazz team, missed his last two games with a rib contusion. But he’s back vs. the Nets. Natch.

The Game

The Jazz have been one of the better teams in the league over the last few seasons and while they have very little playoff success to show for it, they win regular season games. Simple as that. Led by Mitchell and anchored by Rudy Gobert, they’re tough and play a smart brand of basketball. Quinn Snyder knows what he’s doing.

The Nets and Jazz split last seasons match-ups, but the Jazz are 6-2 against the Nets in their last eight matchups, holding Brooklyn to under 100 points in six of those games. Defense is sort of their calling card, sitting at 13th in the league in Defensive Rating despite having a down first quarter-season so far. The Nets are 10th in Offensive Rating, 25th in Defense.

D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie finally got along in that last game, and although the Nets fell apart defensively at the end against the Sixers, it’s clear there needs to be more games where Russell and Dinwiddie play significant minutes, and here’s the important part, some of which are together. Are they James Harden and Chris Paul? Of course not, but in the absence of Levert, their high output scoring —around 40 points a game combined —is what you need to win certain games against certain teams.

Also, former Jazz member DeMarre Carroll is only 10 games into his season, but it would be great if he could start playing better because he 1) He helps the Nets win games and 2) He might be worth an okay draft pick on the market in February. Teams need wings that can shoot and play some defense. Come on DeMarre!

Speaking of wings, the Jazz have a seemingly endless supply of them that Snyder can choose from at any point: Joe Ingles, Jae Crowder, Alec Burks, Royce O’Neale, Grayson Allen, Thabo Sefolosha, even former Net Derrick Favors if you consider that he sometimes takes three’s now. The Nets wings are going to have their hands full in this one.

But Mitchell is playing. Of course, he’s been just a bit disappointing. He’s averaging 20.6 points a game, but his scoring efficiency is down and for a team that’s currently 27th in offensive ranking, that gets noticed.

Of course, the Connecticut native will be near home Wednesday and no doubt want to put on a show.

Player To Watch

Once upon a time, I wanted the Nets to take Rudy Gobert in the draft. I’m quite partial to European players and the big Frenchie was just too enticing to pass up, at least in my eyes. The Nets thought otherwise and took Mason Plumlee five spots before Gobert. Plumlee was fine. Gobert is a game changer. With a career defensive rating of 100 (insanity) and an average of 2.2 blocks per game, he’s quite possibly the single best defensive player in the NBA.

I have a theory that athletes with the weirdest bodies oftentimes end up being the best, and Gobert is like Exhibit A. Actually, Babe Ruth is Exhibit A, but Gobert is up there. He’s 7-1, 245 pounds, and has the longest wingspan in the NBA at 7’9. There are probably fewer than ten people on earth who could knock him over. At 26, he’s just hitting his prime now, as evidenced by his career-high 15 points per game and 69.8 percent shooting from the field. He’s going to be a problem Wednesday night and I have no idea what the solution might be.

From The Vault

Here’s an antidote to the Philly loss. Enjoy.

For a different perspective, head on over to SLC Dunk, our sister site for Jazz fans at SB Nation.