Nets must keep the momentum rolling against the Jazz

(AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
(AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Time: 9:00 PM EST
Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena
Watch: Yes Network/ Fox Sports Go
Listen: WFAN 660AM/101.9FM

Spirits are high for the Brooklyn Nets and, after a series of intense practices, they finally snapped their 16-game losing streak early Thursday morning with a 109-100 win over the Sacramento Kings. The celebration will be short-lived, however, as the Nets continue their annual circus road trip traveling to Salt Lake City to take on Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz. Brooklyn will be looking for revenge following a hard fought 101-89 defeat to the Jazz in Brooklyn back in early January — can they put together a strong back-to-back effort?

The Nets will, once again, attempt to win consecutive games for the first time this season — and the last time the Nets won back to back games was close to now a year ago… yikes. But, hey, enough of that negativity, as the Nets took an early lead against the Kings and never relinquish it. Two big factors in the win were the Nets’ defensive ability to limit Sacramento in transition, as well as a stellar outing from the ‘BrookLin’ combo.

Brooklyn’s much-improved defense held the Kings to only two fast-break points forced them to make only 39% of their shots from deep. Jeremy Lin scored 17 points and dished 5 assists in 20 minutes while Brook Lopez (clearly motivated to win more than 12 games) had 24 points and 8 rebounds. The combination of Lin and Lopez closed this game scoring 14 of the final 18 points the fourth quarter.

The combination of Lin and Lopez closed this game out by scoring 14 of the final 18 points in the fourth quarter.

Utah will be very motivated facing the worst team in the NBA at home, currently in the midst of a 2-game losing streak and coming off an embarrassing 27 point home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Jazz, 37-24 and the fourth in the Western Conference, are led by All-Star Gordon Hayward, who averages 22.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. Offseason acquisition George Hill has been exactly what the Jazz were looking for and the veteran provides a true floor general for the first unit, averaging 17.2 points and 4.1 assists this season.

3 Things to Watch for in Nets-Jazz:

1. Booker’s return/revenge

After playing two straight seasons with Utah before he signed with the Nets, this will be the first time Trevor Booker will return to Salt Lake as a visitor. Booker had a great game last time these teams matched up and he posted an impressive double-double of 17 points and 15 rebounds. Can anyone say revenge game 2.0?

2. Lopez vs. Gobert

The Nets will have their hands full facing Utah’s ‘Stifle-Tower’ at center, Rudy Gobert. Gobert scored 15 points and grabbed 16 boards with 3 blocks in his last game versus the Nets and the perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate is always a threat to impact every shot in the paint. Of course, Lopez will be the primary defender on Gobert and the Nets’ franchise center must limit Gobert’s ability to grab offensive rebounds as he was able to secure 7 offensive boards back in January.

3. Caris LeVert

One of the few bright spots for the Nets so far this season and the now-starting rookie combo guard is validating Sean Mark’s pick one game at a time. More often than not, LeVert seems to occupy a spot on this countdown and as the season winds down, Nets fans are getting antsy to see what this rookie can do in some truly extended minutes.

Against the Kings, LeVert had 13 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals, providing a large factor of energy and athleticism in the Nets win.