In a week where the Nets will face some of the best teams in the NBA, they got off to a good start on Monday night.
The Nets used a 38-point third quarter to help topple the Utah Jazz 114-106 at Barclays Center. It was Kevin Durant that once again stole the show for the Nets, which included spearheading the offensive output in the third quarter when he put up 15 of his 37 points against the Jazz.
The Nets’ superstar was the difference-maker on Monday night as he took over the second half and finished the night with his second consecutive 35-plus point game, which was the first time this season he has done that. Durant shot 15-for-23 from the field and 4-for-7 from three as he surpassed Jerry West on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with his effort.
“We heard they were starting to switch, so really it was just getting (Durant) the ball and get out the way,” Bruce Brown said about the effort from Brooklyn’s cornerstone player. “(Rudy) Gobert and Hassan (Whiteside) can’t stay with him at all, so really get him the ball, get out the way and we just fed off his energy. Making big-time threes, great defensive stops on the other end, rebounding and push the ball.”
Durant knocked down a 13-foot pull-up jumper with 7:31 left in the third to put the Nets up by eight. A turnaround fadeaway from 12 feet by out Durant helped give the Nets a 13 point lead and then he hit a three with 3:17 left in the quarter to give his team an 81-68 lead.
When he stepped up to the line to shoot three free throws with just over a minute left in the third the crowd was chanting MVP at Durant.
Bruce Brown finished with a big night of his own, recording a new season-high 22 points, along with seven rebounds and five assists. Nic Claxton had 15 points in the win while shooting 7-of-8 and Patty Mills finished with 13 points.
Blake Griffen had a big night as well with nine points in 20 minutes off the bench. As a team, the Nets shot 54.2% (45-of-83) from the field.
“I think everyone contributed and had their moments that helped us get the win,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “They made some plays, some live-ball turnovers and threes in the fourth quarter. Otherwise, our defense was really good for the most part and guys battled and played hard. I thought moved the ball and played well offensively as well, so it was a good team effort.”
The Nets earned their sixth win in their last seven games with the victory over Utah. Brooklyn has also won three of its last four home games. Wins are at a critical juncture for the Nets, especially with both the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers in action on Monday night.
The Nets also have the Charlotte Hornets nipping at their heels in the standings in ninth in the East.
“I just think we’re rallying around each other,” Durant said about Brooklyn’s recent success. “We’re making big plays. We just doing it together more than anything. It’s just a collective effort. You see Seth (curry) went down tonight and Kessler (Edwards) came in and did a great job on the ball defensively. And then without (Andre Drummond), Blake and Clax play well. It’s good that people get an opportunity to play, but it’s good to have a deep team like that where we can throw guys in like that who’ve been in the fire before.”
The Jazz did make things a bit interesting down the stretch, but the Nets managed to fend off Utah after they went on a late 13-2 run. The visitors made it a 112-106 game with 57 seconds left, but Brooklyn was able to solidify the win with an alley-oop dunk by Claxton off a pass from Durant.
Things weren’t all perfect for the Nets, who lost sharpshooter Seth Curry in the second quarter after he injured his ankle falling. Nash did not have an update after the game.
The Nets and Jazz went back and forth to start the game and it was a three from the corner by Goran Dragic that tied the game at seven early in the first. Then Durant put the Nets in the lead with a deep two early in the first quarter.
Hassan Whiteside put the Jazz up by one when he hit a jumper with 6:01 left to make it a 13-12 game.
Donovan Mitchell knocked down a three moments later to extend the lead to 16-12. The Nets would work their way back and close the gap. After pulling within one twice, Blake Griffin hit a three with less than a minute tying the game at 25, but Utah finished the first 12 minutes with a 28-25 lead.
It ended a stretch of eight games where the Nets recorded 30-plus points in the opening quarter.
A corner turn-around jumper from Dragic cuts the Nets deficit to 31-29 early in the second quarter. The Nets came back again with Mills knocking down a three and then Blake Griffin getting a putback basket after Mills missed another three-point attempt to cut the Jazz lead to 39-38.
Durant helped facilitate the comeback again later in the second when he hit back-to-back buckets and a Kessler Edwards tied the game at 51 with 1:26 left in the first half.
Edwards came up a big block with just under a minute to keep the game tied and then Brown was fouled going the other way. He knocked down both free throws to put Brooklyn up 53-51, which is how the half ended.