The Brooklyn Nets take on the Utah Jazz tonight, at 7:30 P.M. at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, in a matchup of two teams with wildly contrasting managerial styles. Four of Utah’s top five minute-getters in the early season are under 23 years old; not one Nets rotation player is under the age of 25. (23-year-old Mason Plumlee has played a grand total of three minutes.) The Jazz are built for 2018, the Nets now.
The Jazz have been in frantic rebuilding mode since the trade that sent Deron Williams to the Brooklyn Nets for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, and two first-round draft picks. Harris is since gone. Favors is a full-time starter. One of those two picks is full-time starter Enes Kanter, and the other was packaged in the 2013 draft in a deal that netted the Jazz seventh overall pick Trey Burke. Burke is also a full-time starter, but is out following surgery to repair a broken right index finger.
Williams has never beaten his former team, and the Nets haven’t beaten the Jazz since January 19, 2011. But that fortune could change with the team’s new additions: Kevin Garnett & Paul Pierce haven’t lost to the Jazz since March 22, 2010, losing to a point guard who put up 22 points and 11 assists named… Deron Williams.
Watch: YES Network, 7:30 P.M. EST
Listen: CBS WFAN 660 AM, 101.9 FM
Discussing tonight’s X-Factors:
1. The X-Factor for the Utah Jazz is…
- Devin Kharpertian: Derrick Favors. Not because the Nets traded him away two years ago in their quest to get Deron Williams and FAVORS MUST SEEK ULTIMATE NARRATIVE REVENGE, but because Favors is precisely the type of big man that can still give the Nets fits: athletic, vertical, and huge. Garnett is one of the league’s premier defenders, but he’s also playing less than 30 minutes per game. When he’s not on the floor, Favors could dominate the defensive glass and get Brook Lopez-esque buckets in the paint.
- Benjamin Nadeau: Gordon Hayward. Don’t look now, but Hayward has sneakily become one of the NBA’s underrated playmakers, starting this season off just two assists shy of a triple double in a game last week against the Phoenix Suns. He fills multiple roles for the offensively-challenged Jazz and should be the wing Utah leans on the most. He’ll have some tough matchups tonight against Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko, and Alan Anderson, but if he can succeed in the face of some tough defenders, Utah may shine.
- Max Weisberg: Enes Kanter. The Jazz big man is finally getting minutes this season and he’s producing, averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds through 3 games this season. If the 21-year old can stay out of foul trouble against Brook Lopez, he could have a profound impact on this game at both ends of the floor.
2. The X-Factor for the Brooklyn Nets is…
- Devin Kharpertian: Hitting early shots? The Nets had at least a half-dozen good looks rim out on them in the first half against the Orlando Magic, and ultimately they fell flat in the second half. I know “making shots” isn’t exactly the deepest of basketball analysis, but after they screwed up their first-half rhythm, they looked listless in the second. If they can see a few go down early, they might maintain a lead instead of let an inferior team laugh them out of the building.
- Benjamin Nadeau: Playing Basketball. Remember when Deron Williams said: “Don’t run plays, make them”? Brooklyn settled for mid-range jumper over and over out of set plays. Surely, nobody expected some of the league’s best shooters to stay cold for so long, but instead of taking the ball to the hoop and getting to the line, the Nets seemed content to shoot themselves out of their problems, with disappointing results. You saw the box score, it wasn’t pretty. Tonight, if the Nets can get back to the ball that won them a tightly contested game against Miami, they should be fine.
- Max Weisberg: Deron Williams. He’s never beaten his former team and joked before the game that it’d be nice to get a win. Coach Jason Kidd has limited his minutes, but he hasn’t seemed aggressive enough through the first three games. Williams needs to look for his shot as the main focal point of the Nets offense. When healthy and unrestricted, he’s near impossible to stop. With a 35-year old Jamaal Tinsley as his counterpart tonight, look for D-Will to come up with a big performance.
3. And the winner is…
- Devin Kharpertian: Nets, 104-93. This didn’t work last time and I’m one bad loss away from selling all my Nets stock, but I still have hope that they won’t lose back-to-back clunkers. The team often talks about protecting home court, and I think they’ll do it.
- Benjamin Nadeau:Nets win, 100-90. Kanter could cause major problems if Lopez can’t stay out of foul trouble again, but something tells me that Kevin Garnett started preparing for this game as soon as they left Orlando.
- Max Weisberg: Nets win 106-87. Andray Blatche said this morning that after the game on Sunday, Kevin Garnett was seething. Garnett gave the team a motivational speech after the 20-point loss to the Magic and it’s hard for me to believe that they’ll again come out flat against another inferior team tonight.