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Nets visit league-leading Jazz in second half of back-to-back

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Utah Jazz v Washington Wizards Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Riding high. The Brooklyn Nets went out west to begin a three-game road trip and came away with a quality win early this morning against the Portland Trailblazers. The win was the team’s 16th in their last 18 games. Keep building good habits and the results will follow.

The opponent tonight will be the Utah Jazz. Following a disastrous ending to their 2020 season in the bubble, the Jazz are back with a vengeance and find themselves atop the Western Conference. It’s been a bumpy road recently but they did help the cause by beating the Chicago Bulls on Monday night.

Where to follow the game

YES Network and ESPN on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Late night affair so we’re getting started after 10.

Also, join NetsDaily Pregame discussion at 9:15 EST on Clubhouse with the below link. We will also be discussing the Nets and what might happen with the Trade Deadline tomorrow. See you there!

*Clubhouse is an iPhone app in Beta. You will need to be invited to the app by an existing member. Android version of the app is in the works.*

Clubhouse

Injuries

Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and Spencer Dinwiddie are out. Landry Shamet is out but may rejoin the team in Detroit.

Only Udoka Azubuike is out.

The game

The Nets won the first game in January ... by a lot. In fact, the 36-point winning margin is the biggest —by far— this season.

We mentioned campaigns for awards yesterday as it related to Damian Lillard, but our friends in Utah are looking to get in on the fun as well. Rudy Gobert is a contender to win Defensive Player of the Year (quick side note: he ain’t getting no damn MVP award. Don’t set yourself up to get disappointed on that) and his impact on that side of the ball has been outstanding for years. Tavan Parker of SLC Dunk has more on Gobert’s campaign here.

The Nets bigs will have their hands full on the inside. Utah is the second best rebounding team in the league and rebounding hasn’t been one of Brooklyn’s strong points this season. That said, can we stan Nicolas Claxton some more?!?!?! The young fella was amazing last night as his 16 points and nine rebounds stand out on the box score, however his defense against Dame Lillard in the last minute helped preserve the W. He’s earned a spot in the team’s closing five and his athleticism, ability to switch onto elite guards, and finishing at the rim will make him a crucial part of Brooklyn’s postseason dreams.

With this being the tail end of a back-to-back, it’s uncertain Blake Griffin plays tonight. He’s looked pretty good in his Nets tenure thus far and as he gets more acclimated to the team and maintains his health, he can help open some things up for the offense.

To be fair to LeBron James and KD, I didn’t pick the Jazz either on NBA Live when I was a kid. Sorry, Utah.

It’s always a difficult decision as to whether you leave things as they are, or make one big swing for the fences and go all in for a championship. That’s where the Jazz currently find themselves as they approach the trade deadline atop the West. Mychal Lowman lays out the stakes here:

The cost of doing nothing in past seasons heavily outweighed the cost of taking a risk at the trade deadline. It was the equivalent of “well it’s better than nothing.” If Utah had not made those moves in past seasons, the chances of being worse were the same or increased while improvement relied on making a move. This season it’s the opposite. Making a move could mean the team is slightly worse than its prior iteration. But winning championships is not for the weak of heart. The ones who lift that Larry O’Brien trophy are the ones who took risks and did not play it safe.

While it may seem logical for Utah not to make a move while everything is great right, things are not as great as they seem. Utah has hit the doldrums of the season. They have gone from the hunter to the hunted. They are a trophy to be put on some team’s mantle. While having a target on their back, Utah has struggled. Their weaknesses—no solid wing defender outside of Royce O’Neale, subpar rebounding from the four spot, and Derrick Favors not being very Derrick Favors-like—have become as glaringly obvious as the Death Star’s manhole-less access to its power core.

As we can tell you around these parts, if you have a chance to go for it, you go for it. Figure out the future when you get there.

The Nets and Jazz might mess around and turn this into the three point shootout. Both teams are top ten in threes attempted per game, and are second (Brooklyn) and third (Utah) in efficiency from deep. Highlighting the attacks from deep will be the Joes. Joe Ingles leads the NBA with 50 percent made from deep and Joe Harris is right on his heels at 48.7 percent.

Player to watch: Donovan Mitchell

When it’s title time, you need a dude who can get their own shot and make things happen. Mitchell is that player for Utah and as the team looks to make a deep push, Quin Snyder will dial his number up and hope that he can make it happen. The big change for Mitchell this year is he’s taking more threes and knocking them down at a career high 37.8 percent clip. When you’re able to get to the basket (although his percentages are down inside of three feet) and stretch your game out to three, you can always ensure your team winds up with a decent possession. Another big playoff showing by Mitchell could wind up having people pick the Jazz on 2K in the future!

The shots weren’t there last night, but everything else was for James Harden. He only shot 7-24 from the field and was a gametime decision due to a neck injury he dealt with on Sunday, but Harden still handed out 17 assists and kept the Nets offense humming all night long. Harden is a tank and his durability is one of the more impressive things about his game. The minutes are still on the high side, but it works for him so he’ll just keep on keeping on.

From the Vault

It’s gonna be a late night, so grab your beverage of choice, cuddle with your favorite person, watch the game and relax to this. You’ll thank me later

More reading: SLC Dunk