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Kyrie Irving scores 29 points as Nets blow out Jazz, 130-96

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Utah Jazz v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Even without Kevin Durant and an interesting starting five that included Bruce Brown and Jarrett Allen, it was all Brooklyn, all the time as the Nets led wire-to-wire for the first time this season.

The Nets came to play in a big way, cementing their best performance of the season, defeating the Utah Jazz, 130-96. With the win, Brooklyn sits at 4-4 on the season while Utah falls to 4-3.

“It certainly feels great,” Steve Nash said following the win. “Win or lose, the effort, the connectivity, the things we try to build on every day, that collective fighting spirit - you can see it. It was a pleasure to watch, to coach, and I’m proud of the guys. We had a little bit of a tough run, a little bit of a cloud forming over us, and the guys put it aside tonight. Played really hard, played together, and it was a great performance.”

Nash admitted that the Nets starting five did not see time together on the court in training camp and previous practices. The 46-year-old head coach also praised the bench guys for embracing their roles, explaining how that type of attitude wins games down the line.

“Not that I can remember,” Nash said about the starting five playing together in training camp and previous practices. “As a matter of fact, I say it’s a hard no. We just mixed it up and we got a shot in the arm out of it, and guys responded to it.

“Not only the guys that started but the guys who were moved to the bench were outstanding as well. Didn’t flinch and accepted their role. That’s the type of teamwork and attitude that is important if you want to win games.”

With one superstar out for Brooklyn, the other superstar provided. It was the Kyrie Irving Show. Irving, who came out of the gates firing, finished with 29 points (including 18 in the first quarter), five assists, six rebounds, and three steals in 30 minutes of play. And he did it from all angles, rendering the presence of Rudy Gobert, not a factor.

Jarrett Allen, making his first start, made sure to make a statement against Gobert, who is fresh off the biggest contract for a center in league history. Along with putting Gobert on a poster and rejecting the 7’1” center at the rim, Allen pulled together a strong double-double with a season-high 19 points, 18 rebounds, three steals, and two blocks in 32 minutes of play as a starter, perhaps the best game of his four-year career. Allen benefited from DeAndre Jordan’s early foul problems, racking up four in four minutes when he first spelled Allen.

“It was pretty good,” Nash said about Allen’s performance. “He did it all. He rebounded, protected the basket, and had a lot of pressure on him to protect the basket. He blocked shots, he got steals, and he was just so impactful. Incredible energy, effective, scored in traffic, scored through contact and just did it all. Really proud of him and we’ve seen him continue to develop and tonight was a phenomenal game against a top-quality team and a top-quality center.”

Matt Brooks has more on the Fro in his latest Film Room below.

While Irving put on a show and Allen showed up Gobert, Caris LeVert’s comeback arrived Tuesday night. Following combining for 24 points in his last three games, LeVert unleashed a strong performance off the bench, finishing with 24 points, one rebound, five assists and three steals in 21 minutes. His bounce-back performance marked the third time this season Levert notched 20+ points but the first since December 28.

The Nets finished the win shooting 55.9 percent overall and 38.9 percent from deep. To go along with a stellar shooting performance, Brooklyn outrebounded the Jazz 51-42. To make things even sweeter, Brooklyn also scored a season-high 68 points in the paint while dishing out a season-high 31 assists in the win.

“I thought the rebounding, especially in the first half, was pretty even. I think they had four offensive rebounds in both halves but gang rebounding, the diligence to get in in numbers is something that has to become a habit for our team,” Nash said about rebounding. Much improved but like win or lose, for them to play with that connectivity and that fighting spirit was a pleasure to coach. I’m really proud of their attitude, the way they approached the game.”

As for the Jazz, Donovan Mitchell, a New York native, led Utah with a game-high 31 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists in 30 minutes of play. As for Gobert, he finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes of play and took a back seat to Allen all night long. Utah finished the loss shooting 38.8 percent overall and 32.4 percent from deep.

(Another) contender for “Quote of the Year”

“Before the game, I’m normally a pesto-on-my-pasta type of guy. But today I went with alfredo sauce. So I really think that was what turned my game on tonight.”

—Jarrett Allen, 2021.

Never change, young man.

The boost from Bruce Brown

Tuesday’s game also marked the emergence of Bruce Brown, who finished with six points, six rebounds, and five assists in 23 minutes. Along with his offensive contributions, Brown provided quality defense and that energy Steve Nash wanted heading into the game. Prior to Tuesday’s game, Brown saw only 12 combined minutes this season.

“For Bruce, he’s playing hard each and every day,” explained Caris LeVert. “At practice, they called them the ‘extra work’ group. The guys that kind of get low minutes to no minutes some games, he’s always in there playing. As well as the other guys who got some minutes tonight. I feel like everybody was ready. And Bruce got his number called today, and he was ready and he really helped us get that win tonight. He was really great defensively and offensively making plays also. That was huge for our team.”

“I thought he did great,” Nash said about Brown’s performance. “He played with energy and toughness. I thought it was the hustle plays. He got some rebounds, he got some assists and was just engaged. I thought it was great for him coming off of no minutes to be able to play with that type of engagement and concentration was a tribute to him and his character.”

Brown said he was all smiles when he found out he was starting. The same emotion followed with his teammates with the main goal for him was to bring energy.

“I found out when we were doing the lineups pregame, going through their personnel,” Brown said about when he found out he was starting. “I just started smiling and I knew I was ready. My teammates knew I was ready so I just went out there and brought energy.”

The 24-year-old admitted it was hard to be put on the ‘stay ready unit’ and it was an adjustment, considering he started a majority of his career. Although it was an adjustment, Brown said the ‘stay ready’ unit kept him ready for when his opportunity came knocking.

“It was definitely difficult,” Brown said about the lack of playing time. “It was an adjustment. I was ready for it. The ‘stay ready’ group kept me ready. We worked hard. Those guys, we played one’s, five-on-five, and we knew our time was going to come and I just wanted to put out that energy and play well.”

Outside of the ‘stay ready’ unit, Brown, along with his fellow Nets teammates, said the players got a three-word text from Durant prior to the game.

“Next Man Up.”

The Film Room

So, um.

This happened.

And this.

Oh, but he wasn’t finished.

If you don’t think Jarrett Allen didn't see the money Rudy Gobert received just before the season (a 5-year, $205 million extension), and if you didn’t think that exorbitant sum of money motivated him in a (restricted) free agency season, well, you’d be kidding yourself. Gobert has set the market for rolling centers, and Jarrett Allen wants to get paid. A great way to do that? Dunk on the league’s premier shot-blocker, and then stuff his shot like a Thanksgiving turkey. TWICE.

Don’t believe me? Here’s Jarrett Allen speaking directly on the motivating factor Rudy Gobert’s big pockets and great performance.

“I wouldn’t say it’s personal, but I wanna go out there, try my best, and prove I can be on that level of a center in the league. He did just get that big contract that he earned just playing amazing defense and being an offensive threat. So I just want to go out and prove I’m on his level.”

Per NBA stats, Allen shot a combined 38.4 percent against Rudy Gobert in his two previous seasons. Now, he’s taking it to the former Defensive Player of the Year, recording two blocks, a poster-dunk, three steals, 18 rebounds, and 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting in the process. The evolution continues.

Steve Nash provides an update on Kevin Durant

Prior to Tuesday’s game against the Utah Jazz, Steve Nash said the length of Kevin Durant’s quarantine is a “moving target” and he will not participate in any on-court activities.

“My understanding is that it is a quarantine so I don't think there will be any on-court activity,” Nash said. “The length of the quarantine I think is still a moving target. There are negative tests, days from the contact tracing, and all sorts of factors that go into it. I don’t really have an answer on how long and I think some of those factors are either in flux or debatable so we are waiting for the official word. I wish I can give you more but that’s all we have right now.”

Nash also noted that to his knowledge, no other Nets players are included in Durant’s contact tracing.

“I don’t believe and I haven’t heard any word there is any contact tracing with any of his teammates. That’s implacable so I can’t give you anything there to my knowledge.”

When asked about how Durant is feeling following the COVID-19 contact tracing news, Nash said his star is “extremely upset.” The Nets head coach also feels horrible for him, considering his past layoff and finally returning to the game of basketball to now sitting out at least the Nets next four games.

“Obviously Kevin is extremely upset to miss time,” Nash said. “It’s horrible for him. He’s worked his way back after such a long layoff and for him to miss games like this is frustrating for him. We just got to stick with it, play the long game, and know that in time he will be back and forget about this window he missed.”

Clearly losing a player like Kevin Durant for four total games is devastating for the Nets. As Nash said, there is no replacing Kevin Durant and the Nets will just need to up their game on all areas of the floor with ‘the reality is we just got to fight.’

“The short answer is that you can’t replace Kevin Durant,” Nash said. “How well we come back in his loss - we will have to play with pace, move the ball, and try to make each other better. Defensively, we got to be locked in and as much as I love for us to be mistakeless and be perfect, the reality is we just got to fight, try our best to compete, do our best at 50-50 balls, rebounds, and do all the little things against a very talented team when you are missing your big gun.”

As it stands, on top of Tuesday’s game against the Utah Jazz, Durant will definitely miss the upcoming games against the Philadelphia 76ers, Memphis Grizzlies, and the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of his quarantine.

Reggie Perry gets time

Steve Nash played rookie Reggie Perry for seven minutes during extended garbage time. Perry scored five points, grabbed five rounds and handed out one assist. It was his first extended playing time since Christmas Day when he played eight minutes. His points and rebounds were a season high for the 57th pick out of Mississippi State.

Timeoutgate

In the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Washington Wizards, an abrupt timeout was called amidst a flurry of confusion on Brooklyn’s sidelines. Some on the internets speculated that it was Nets star, Kyrie Irving, who called the timeout for his head coach, Steve Nash. The evidence surrounding that claim is, at this point, insufficient given how much was going on at that moment (the film is murky as well). Comments from Irving’s teammates support the idea that this is a non-story.

“I didn’t even see that,” said Kevin Durant after Sunday’s game against the Washington Wizards. “But Steve knows when to call timeouts. He knows what he’s doing out there. We all trust him. He’s only going to get more comfortable as time goes on.”

Nash was asked about that timeout moment in the third quarter.

“I don’t remember him calling a timeout,” said Steve Nash. “So unless I’m confused, I don’t remember him doing that.”

A resounding win against the Jazz with completely new rotations sure suggests the team has bought-in to Nash. I’d say, it’s time to move on. Speaking of...

What’s Next

The Brooklyn Nets will host the red-hot Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center on Thursday, Jan. 7. The Sixers sit at 6-1 on the season.

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