Time: 7:30 EST
Location: Barclays Center
Watch: YES Network, FOX Sports GO
Listen: WFAN 101.9, 660 AM
The Brooklyn Nets will face the Utah Jazz for the second time in six days Friday night and are looking to come away with a win this time around. The Nets are coming off a loss against the scorching hot Boston Celtics Tuesday night, the first game of a tough three-game home stretch. The Nets were competitive throughout most of the game, but the masked assassin Kyrie Irving made sure his team kept the streak going before facing the defending champion Golden State Warriors. He ended the night with 25 points and hit two big shots down the stretch to put the nail in the coffin. The Nets’ leading scorer was Joe Harris with 19 points (who amazingly has not scored 20 points in an NBA game yet) and looked like the only reliable offensive player in the second half of this contest.
The last time the Nets and Jazz faced each other, we saw the Brooklyn Nets storm back late in the fourth quarter led by D’Angelo Russell’s 26 points.The Nets cut the lead to just four points with two minutes to play but never seemed to get their groove back after Russell went down with his injury. The Jazz ended up winning the game 114-106 with an impressive performance from the rookie Donovan Mitchell (26 points, 10-18 FG).
Both Brooklyn and Utah will be without their best players Friday night. Rudy Gobert is still battling a bruised knee and Russell is out with a knee contusion. The injury to Gobert has forced the Jazz to go with a much smaller lineup that moves Joe Ingles to the power forward role and Thabo Sefolosha to the three. This benefits the Nets as they have struggled to guard bigger lineups this season, so expect Brooklyn to try and attack the paint early and often.
Three things to watch for
Caris LeVert looks to build on his best game of the season
Levert had his best game of the season Tuesday night, ending the game with 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting and four assists. More importantly, he made both of his three-point attempts, an area of his game that has not really translated to the pro level. With his four assists, he looked more dynamic as the primary ball handler. There were times this season where LeVert looked uncomfortable playing off of the ball, where he felt like he had to make something happen offensively which led to forced shots at the rim. When he brings the ball up the court he does not have that pressure, allowing him to focus on initiating the offense. That leads to less of the ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ LeVert we have seen this year.
Donovan Mitchell at point guard
Mitchell has been a huge part of the Utah Jazz offense this season. He stands at No. 16 in the league in usage rate and is currently averaging 15 points per night. With that being said, he has been playing the two-guard for most of this season even though he was a point guard coming out of college. Ricky Rubio (Achilles soreness) is questionable for Friday night, which might open up the point guard spot to Mitchell. Most scouts think that is the position he should be playing, so we will see how he adjusts to being the clear-cut No. 1 option for an NBA team.
Who starts at center?
The Nets started Trevor Booker in place of the struggling Timofey Mozgov at the center spot Tuesday night. Booker held his own, scoring 12 points, grabbing nine rebounds and playing decent defense on Al Horford. While Booker played well, Derrick Favors was tough to handle in Utah in the first matchup. He had his way with Brooklyn’s frontcourt and he may look to duplicate that performance once again. With Jarett Allen back from injury, he likely will not get his first career start, but I do think he will get a bump in minutes to neutralize Favors’ looks at the basket. The Nets struggled guarding the pick and roll and that was most likely a point of emphasis for Kenny Atkinson coming into this game.