Opponent: Utah Jazz
Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena (Salt Lake City)
Time: 9:30 PM EDT
Watch: YES Network, Fox Sports GO app
Playing their first game without Joe Johnson since the franchise moved to Brooklyn, the Nets (16-42) came out guns blazing in Phoenix Thursday night, winning 116-106 over the Suns. Bojan Bogdanovic, starting his first game since January 8th, led the Nets with 24 points. Markel Brown, the immediate benefactor of more minutes, scored 16 points off the bench.
“It is a great confidence builder. We played so well for a lot of the game in Portland. It was good to break through tonight,” the Nets’ Brook Lopez said. “Everyone stayed focused. They made a run at the end but we never gave up too much ground.”
Tonight’s game may have a different speed, as the Nets play a Utah Jazz team ranked last in the NBA in PACE at 90.8. The Jazz (28-29) currently sit a half game behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings. After an inconsistent start to the season marred with injuries, the Jazz have found their footing, winning 10 of their last 15 games beginning with their last meeting against the Nets in Brooklyn.
On January 22nd, the Jazz shot a whopping 57.3 percent from the field and outscored the Nets 37-17 in the third quarter to en route to blowing out the Nets on their home floor. Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 21 points and nine assists, and Trevor Booker notched 13 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
One player the Nets didn’t see in the last meeting was Shelvin Mack. At the trading deadline, the Jazz acquired the five-year pro from the Atlanta Hawks for a second round draft pick. Most notably known for playing in two straight NCAA National Championship games with Butler back in 2010 and 2011, Mack averaged 3.9 points in just 7.5 minutes per game this season with Atlanta. Already in three games with the Jazz, Mack has played at least 24 minutes in each, averaging 13.7 points and 3.7 assists. Jazz head coach Quin Snyder has elected to start Mack the past two games and bring Raul Neto off the bench. Neto has started 53 of 56 games this season.
Center Rudy Gobert, a.k.a. The Stifle Tower, has had a least two blocks in each of the last seven games. Gobert is averaging 2.4 blocks per game, eclipsed only by Hassan Whiteside’s 3.85, to go along with 10.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and a 58.4 percent field goal percentage.
Milestone watch: Brook Lopez is six made free throws shy of tying Derrick Coleman for fourth on the Nets’ all-time free throws made list.