Losses are never fun. National TV losses are worse, and it tends to expose some of your deepest flaws. The Brooklyn Nets took on a depleted Phoenix Suns team in Arizona last night, and for most of the night played a disastrous brand of basketball. However, they snapped out of their funk in the fourth quarter and almost pulled off a miracle. However, time ran out and they suffered a tough loss. The losing streak is now at four and things are getting tight in the Eastern Conference standings.
The opponent tonight is one the league’s most pleasant surprises. I don’t think anybody expected much from the Utah Jazz this season as all signs pointed to them going full speed ahead in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. However, something funny has happened. The majority of the Western Conference is kinda eh, and the Jazz are doing pretty well! They are solidly within the playoff and play in chase, and helped the cause with a win against the reeling Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
Where to follow the game
YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 10 PM.
No Kevin Durant.
Kelly Olynyk is out.
Night two of a back to back, third game in four nights. Winning on the road isn’t easy, and the task gets harder tonight. And when you consider how much energy the Nets main rotation spent trying to come back, lord knows who’ll be on the court tonight. It’s been almost seven years since the Nets last won in Utah. Tonight would be a good time as any to get back on the winning side.
One player who didn’t play much last night was TJ Warren. Last time the Nets had a back-to-back, he played 21 minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks before getting a rest day the next night vs. the Indiana Pacers. Warren only played seven minutes last night, so assuming he isn’t dealing with an injury, has a chance to be back out there tonight. It’s all hands on deck so if he’s OK to go, the Nets need him out there and getting buckets.
At the very least, Walker Kessler is getting an invitation to this year’s Rising Stars game. As one of the players coming to Utah from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Rudy Gobert, Kessler has been a revelation for Utah. He averages seven points, seven rebounds, and two blocks a night on 71 percent shooting from the field. The big fella operates almost exclusively at the rim, but that works wonderfully when everyone else around is lighting it up from three point range. The Jazz have an incredibly bright future, and if Kessler continues to grow, Utah will be back in the playoffs before you know it.
The Nets lost the rebound battle again last night, and they’ve got to clean that up immediately. Too many times, opponents get extra possessions to make something happen and they wind up making the Nets pay. It’s a team effort all the way through and the squad has to work harder and fight to complete possessions.
It’s a homecoming! Royce O’Neale will be back in town after spending the first five seasons of his career in Salt Lake City. O’Neale was a good member of the Jazz and figures to get a well deserved ovation from the Utah crowd.
It’s trade season, and teams are calling the Jazz looking to try and snag some of their veterans. We’ll see what happens once we draw closer to the deadline.
While the Nets are away, the Barclays Center will be hosting a very special event. This afternoon, the New York Liberty will be introducing their new superstar, Jonquel Jones! NetsDaily will be on site and will provide you all the insight and analysis from the event.
Jacque Vaughn wants the Nets to take more threes, and tonight would be a great time to start. The Jazz love to shoot from deep (fourth in the NBA at almost 40 attempts a night) and are shooting 36.4 percent from three point range. During the four game losing streak, Brooklyn is shooting 31.5 percent from downtown, fourth worst in the NBA during that stretch. Joe Harris and Seth Curry got hot from deep last night, and the hope is they can carry it over tonight.
This is part of the deal when you see yourself as a franchise player. When the top dog is out, you have to do more to make up for their absence. Anything less than star level play is a doomsday scenario. With Durant out, the keys of the franchise have gone to Kyrie Irving and it’s been a struggle so far. He shot 11-27 last night, but that doesn’t tell the entire story. In the fourth quarter, Irving went nuclear, scoring 21 of his 30 points as Brooklyn fought back. Even with all his struggles, there is a solution that would alleviate some of those woes: Attack the basket! Irving is one of the most gifted and creative finishers the game of basketball has ever seen and when the Nets went on their run, it was powered by Irving getting to the cup. When he settles, it limits the Nets offense and makes his life even more difficult. The Nets need Irving dialed in for all four quarters. It’s tough, but that’s the expectation for stars. Gotta make it happen.
Nic Claxton keeps on keeping on. The big guy had 20 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, and three more blocks in 35 minutes of playing time last night. He’s not a three point shooter, but tossed one up there late as Brooklyn tried to rally. His motor Send that man to the All Star Game!
Player to watch: Lauri Markkanen
It’s always fun to watch a young player put all the pieces together. After starting his career with the Chicago Bulls and a year playing jumbo ball with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Markkanen has found a home in Utah. The big guy is the focal point of the Jazz attack and is averaging career highs across the board. He’s averaging around 25 points and nine rebounds on .520/.422/.873 shooting splits in 34 minutes a night. He can light it up from the deep and has a penchant for posterizing people when they try to jump with him at the rim. He’s been absolutely magnificent, and should be named to the All Star Game in a few weeks. It would be a well deserved accomplishment and a treat for the Jazz fans.
For a star player and former All-NBA defender, Ben Simmons commits some of the silliest fouls imaginable. Whether it’s being over aggressive when the situation doesn’t call for it, not being set when setting screens, etc., it’s been a rough go of it for him recently. His night wasn’t the greatest last night as he committed five fouls and got himself ejected midway through the third quarter. It’s bad business when you get ejected on a normal day. But when the franchise is out injured, a bad ejection becomes unacceptable.
If you’re looking for something resembling a bright side, Simmons is looking to attack the basket a bit more. It’s the least he can do, but it’s a start.
From the Vault
This year, the All Star Game will be held in Salt Lake City. Let’s take a trip back in time to when the game was last held in Utah
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t send birthday shout outs to Sade
More reading: SLC Dunk
- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Utah Jazz Game Notes - Utah Jazz
- Nets skid into matchup with rising Jazz - STATS
- Walker Kessler and Ochai Agbaji’s next developmental stage? ‘The right dosage of failure’ - Eric Walden - Salt Lake Tribune