Jazz look to regain focus against Nets (Mar 03, 2017)
SALT LAKE CITY — Fatigue caught up with Utah in its latest game and wreaked havoc with the speed and efficiency of a virus. The results were not pretty.
Utah’s chances to bounce back against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night will hinge, as usual, on what its big three of Rudy Gobert, Gordon Hayward and George Hill can do to impact the game.
During a 107-80 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Jazz looked lifeless on both ends of the court. Utah trailed by as many as 30 points in the second half and didn’t lead again after Hill scored the game’s first basket.
As a team, the Jazz shot just 35-of-90 (38.9 percent) from the field against the Timberwolves and coughed up 14 turnovers.
“It’s hard to pinpoint one thing,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “We didn’t have the energy and we didn’t execute.”
It marked the second loss in as many nights for Utah. The Jazz blew a four-point lead in the final seconds against Oklahoma City a night earlier and fell 109-106 to the Thunder.
Only 1 1/2 games separate fourth-place Utah (37-24) and seventh-place Oklahoma City in the Western Conference standings. There’s no margin for error in such a tight battle for a top four seed.
The Jazz know they can’t afford many more missteps like they experienced against Minnesota, especially against an opponent that snapped a 16-game losing streak Wednesday night in Sacramento.
“We got to come out ready and be tough mentally,” Gobert said. “Every time we’re a little tired, we just play like we don’t want to show that we’re tired. It’s not how it should work. All of us, we got to be tougher.”
In road victories over the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards, Hayward averaged 29.5 points and Hill averaged 20.0 points. Both players shot 50 percent or better from the field in those games and combined for 13 made 3-pointers.
Their shooting dipped below 50 percent in losses to Oklahoma City and Minnesota and the Jazz offense felt the effects of that dip in production.
Gobert averaged 15 points, 18 rebounds and 3.5 blocks against the Bucks and Wizards. In the last two games, those numbers dipped to 11 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.
The Nets (10-49) come into Salt Lake City with a rare burst of momentum after beating Sacramento 109-100 on Wednesday. Brooklyn won for the first time since Jan. 20 and earned just its third road victory of the season.
For the Nets, it was just their second win overall in their last 29 games dating back to December 26.
“It’s great to break through and see this result,” center Brook Lopez said. “But we don’t want it to be a one-time thing.”
Lopez played a big role in ending the skid. He scored 24 points and joined Buck Williams as the second Net to eclipse 10,000 points.
Lopez has been a ray of sunlight for Brooklyn in a season filled with storm clouds. He is one of just two NBA players — along with Kevin Durant — to record 90-plus blocks, 90-plus 3-pointers and 100-plus assists.
Jeremy Lin added 17 points, and he and Lopez combined to score 14 of Brooklyn’s final 18 points to help the Nets ensure they will not match the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers for the fewest wins in an 82-game season
“I’m just thankful, because I feel like the guys have been working really hard,” Lin said. “They deserved to win a long time ago.”
Utah defeated the Nets 101-89 on January 2 in the previous meeting between the two teams this season. Gordon Hayward scored 30 points and Rudy Gobert tallied 15 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Jazz.
The Jazz are 12-4 in the last 16 meetings, though Brooklyn squeaked out a 98-96 victory in Utah on Feb. 27, 2016.