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Alize Johnson seizes his big chance as short handed Nets get blown out by Jazz, 118-88

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Brooklyn Nets v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The odds were stacked against the shorthanded Nets.

Without James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin, the Nets suffered a blowout loss to the Jazz, 118-88 in Salt Lake City. With the loss, Brooklyn falls to 30-15 on the season and sits 2.0 games back from the first seed Sixers. The loss also snaps the Nets franchise-record nine-game West Coast road winning streak.

“That’s a great team. The team with the best record in the league. We went out there severely under-manned and most importantly, they stuck together and played hard,” Nash said postgame.

“Defensively we’re pretty good. Maybe gave up too many threes but otherwise, did a lot of great things defensively. Just told them I’m proud of them. It was great to see some of those guys get some minutes, some opportunities, make some buckets, get some rebounds, stops and develop. Lots to be thankful for and we move on to Detroit.”

The Nets became the last NBA team to lose a game by 20 points or more.

Despite losing by 30 and trailing by 20+ for a majority of the contest, the game turned into a great opportunity for the role players ... and no one seized the moment more than Alize Johnson who joined the team Wednesday morning.

Johnson signed a 10-day contract with Brooklyn Monday fresh off an impressive G League bubble campaign. He was easily the brightest spot in the loss. The 6’8” forward finished with a double-double of 23 points and 15 rebounds to go along with three assists and two steals in 33 minutes of play.

“He was great,” Nash said postgame. “Stuffed the stat sheet, played good defense and gave us tons of energy. I don’t think he’s really played since the G League bubble so, heck of an effort from him. (I’m) proud of the way he played.”

The 24-year-old entered the game with 31 games of NBA experience split between two seasons with the Pacers. He became the first Net since 1979 with 20+ points and 15+ rebounds in a team debut. Calvin Natt (20 points and 19 rebounds) had his big game on October 12, 1979.

“Just prove to everyone that I belong here in the NBA,” Johnson said about the statement on his game postgame. “I put in a lot of hard work and I will continue to keep working and try to be the best player I can be.”

With the trade deadline approaching Thursday afternoon, the Nets can release Johnson to fill a roster spot if needed. But at the other end of the spectrum, Brooklyn can offer Johnson a second 10-day once the first one expires, assuming he survives the deadline ... and the signing of players who get bought out. Moreover, a league source tells NetsDaily that the Nets can convert Johnson’s 10-day to a two-way.

“I’m just taking it day by day and trying to not think about that. Every time I get out there on the floor and get an opportunity, I try to play like it’s my last game,” Johnson said about the uncertainty of his future. “That’s how I’m approaching this thing and everything else will take care of itself.”

Chris Chiozza, who did not play in the last seven games prior to Wednesday, played well in the loss as the point guard logged 28 minutes and finished with 10 points and 11 assists in the win. The Nets two-way didn’t shoot the ball well however, going 4-of-16 overall and 2-of-9 from deep.

Reggie Perry, himself just back from the “bubble,” had 12 points and eight rebounds and shot 4-of-9 overall, including 2-of-4 from deep.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who started, finished with 14 points, five rebounds and one assist in 34 minutes as he works to get back in the rotation. Joe Harris got only five minutes of action in the first quarter before being rested for the remainder of the game while DeAndre Jordan scored four points in 12 minutes off the bench.

For Utah, Donovan Mitchell was the leading scorer as he finished with 27 points in 27 minutes followed by Mike Conley, who contributed 18 points in 25 minutes as the Jazz improves to 32-11 on the season, 17 in a row at home as the team holds down the No. 1 seed out West.

It certainly was a strange first quarter for the banged-up Nets. The Jazz was rolling early as Utah forged a 16-4 lead off a commanding 11-0 run as Steve Nash called an early timeout with 7:38 remaining in the first. While Utah certainly didn’t lay off the gas as the Jazz piled on their lead against the shorthanded Nets, ending the first with a 38-17 lead. The Nets ugly first resulted in the team shooting 25.0 percent overall and 18.2 percent from deep while recording three turnovers.

Nash and the Nets surely had their fun experimenting with lineups as all 10 active players saw first-quarter minutes. To close out the period, Brooklyn had Reggie Perry, who finished with 12 points in 28 minutes, DeAndre Jordan, and Nicolas Claxton, who finished with four points and three rebounds in 23 minutes, on the floor together.

Brooklyn regained their footing in the second while Utah lowered their effort and went cold, making their first field goal with 6:28 remaining. As the Nets held the Jazz scoreless for nearly six minutes, Brooklyn compiled an 11-3 run chipping away at the lengthy deficit throughout the second but Utah woke up to finish the half with a 63-38 at the break, shooting 30.2 percent from the field and 15.8 percent from deep - a season-low.

The Nets' 38 first-half points marked the fewest points scored by the team all season and not a single Net entered the break in double-figures. Chiozza provided a good punch for Brooklyn as his hustle and speed translated to seven points in 12 minutes while Luwawu-Cabarrot had seven points in 16 minutes.

Utah came out of the locker room looking to build on their lead as the Jazz forged a 15-6 run in the first seven minutes of the third as the game appeared to be a wrap at that point. The Nets trailed by 29 heading into the final 12 minutes, Utah held their lengthy lead, unleashed their bench midway through the fourth and won the game. And that was that.

Protecting Harden from himself

Wednesday’s loss was only the second time that James Harden has sat since he was traded to the Nets the first week of January. Although he played Sunday in Portland, he was still suffering from the shot he took to the neck the game before vs. the Wizards.

Nash explained pre game that Harden wanted to play, but the decision wasn’t his to make, that the team decided another 40 minutes could do him more harm than a loss would do the team.

“I’m hoping it’s short term,” Nash said. “To be honest, I’m sure James would’ve wanted to play [in Utah]. But he’s not. I don’t think it’s safe for him to play, and I think sometimes you have to protect him from himself. He’s such a warrior and competitor and loves to play.

“But he was questionable for [Tuesday], played a ton of minutes. You could see it was tough for him shooting the ball, but he still obviously dominated in other ways. But I think [Wednesday] it was the smartest and safest decision to protect him from himself and take him out of the lineup because he’s struggling. It’s pretty sore. I hope that he’ll be back next game, but we’ll have to see day by day here.”

So no word yet if the neck soreness and whether he’d be back Friday.

The Film Room

There weren’t many highlights in this one (duh), aside from ESPN quite literally using the third quarter as a podcasting opportunity to bring Adrian Wojnarowski on to discuss some deadline rumors. They just... straight-up didn’t commentate the game for 8 minutes of gameplay. Not sure I’ve laughed that hard in a long time.

Alize Johnson was good too, right? Some promising energy, good rebounding instincts. He’ll get a chance somewhere.

This is a push shot! It went in!

That’s all I’ve got. I’m sorry. This was a rough one.

Reggie Perry’s hilarious commentary on odd lineup

There was a stretch during the first-half in which Nash, a Wednesday night mad scientist, threw out a lineup that included THREE centers with Nicolas Claxton, Reggie Perry, and DeAndre Jordan (yes, this game got that weird). It was a night for experimentation.

Reggie Perry provided his (hilarious) thoughts.

“When we first saw it happen,” explained Perry. “We all looked at each other like... alright?... we all out here on the same?...”

The full video does it justice.

On a serious note, the 20-year-old Perry said his time in the G League helped most with defensive rotations.

“I really just gained defensive coverages,” Perry said. “Learned how to play a lot of defensive coverages and stuff, and really one of the biggest things I learned out there is — not really learned but just got from it — was just getting my body into shape. Getting to play for a lot more minutes, a longer time at a faster pace and a better pace.”

As Sponge Bob might say...

Per Will Hanley.

What’s next

The NBA trade deadline is 3 p.m. Thursday. Pundits continue to suggest that Brooklyn is offering the injured Spencer Dinwiddie in potential deals for a veteran wing defender. The Nets will cap off their three-game road trip when the team travels north to face the Detroit Pistons on Friday. The game is set to tip at 7:00 PM ET.

For a different (and more positive) perspective, check out SLC Dunk - our sister site covering the Utah Jazz.