The Brooklyn Nets (18-25) ran into a buzz saw at the Staples Center Thursday night, in the form of the Los Angeles Clippers: On a national TV broadcast, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan and the rest of “Lob City” embarrassed the Nets propelled by 70 first-half points en route to a 123-84 demolition.
And that wasn’t the worst news of the night. Mirza Teletovic, taken to a hospital at halftime due to shortness of breath, was diagnosed with blood clots which end his season; a severe and possibly devastating predicament for the 29-year-old’s future and career. Teletovic stayed in Los Angeles to get further treatment.
An opportunity to salvage a three-game road trip lies ahead. The Jazz (15-28), the third-youngest team in the NBA, are coming off a hard-fought 101-99 road win against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, led by Enes Kanter’s 24 points and 16 rebounds. Kanter was drafted with a pick the Nets traded to the Jazz to acquire Deron Williams.
First-year head coach Quin Snyder played just eight players in the contest, missing starting power forward Derrick Favors, another ex-Nets player, for personal reasons, while still trying to replace minutes of third-year guard Alec Burks, who will miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury.
The Nets took both games against the Jazz last season: a 104-88 win in Brooklyn led by Brook Lopez’s 27 points, and a come-from-behind 105-99 victory in Utah led by Joe Johnson’s 27 points. If the Nets win tonight, it would mark the first time the Nets have won consecutive road games against the Jazz since the 1976-77 season.
While Kanter (14 points per game, 7.6 rebounds per game) and Gordon Hayward (19.0 points per game) will be the primary focus on offense, second year Frenchman Rudy Gobert will require attention due his insane frame (7’1” tall with a 7’9” wingspan) and disruptive presence in the paint. Gobert’s vertical presence has catalyzed the Jazz defense when given minutes: the team allows 101 points per 100 possessions with him on the court, and 111.4 off.
Coach Snyder has spiked Gobert’s minutes in January and he’s responded, averaging 10 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 3.6 blocks in 30.2 minutes over a span of 11 games. If Favors misses tonight’s game, the Nets could see Gobert tip-off at center court against Mason Plumlee, who was chosen just five spots ahead of him in the 2013 NBA draft.
Despite a dreadful performance by the Nets on Thursday, Plumlee started off well, matching Jordan’s and Griffin’s dunks with a few above-the-rim finishes of his own. Plumlee has been the best Nets player over the last 23 games, averaging 14.9 points on 67.8 percent shooting to go along 8.4 rebounds per game.
A big question for Coach Hollins tonight will be how he utilizes the bench in Teletovic’s absence. Cory Jefferson and Jerome Jordan are the obvious candidates to see more playing time but “Fearza” will be difficult to replace.
Tip-off is at 9:00 PM E.S.T., at Salt Lake City’s EnergySolutions Arena.