Nets Opponent: Utah Jazz
Location: Barclays Center
Time: 7:30 PM EDT
Watch: YES Network, Fox Sports GO apps
The Nets (11-32) lost their fourth straight game and their twelfth home loss in 13 games on Wednesday to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The 91-78 loss was also their ninth in their last ten games, which not-so-coincidentally matches the same stretch played without starting point guard Jarrett Jack, who is sidelined for rest of the season after tearing his ACL. The Nets have played poorly pretty much all season, but Jack’s absence has been glaring on the offensive end: since the injury on January 2, the Nets are averaging just 89.1 points per game (10 games) compared to their December average of 98.5 points, a huge gulf even with their slightly slower pace.
Despite the team’s offensive deficiencies, Donald Sloan has done well in extended minutes the past seven games, averaging 9.9 points and 7.7 assists in 26.8 minutes. The fifth year guard has posted nine-plus assists in four of the seven games; he’s achieved that mark just twice in 173 games prior.
Tonight, the Utah Jazz (18-24) visit Barclays Center fresh off their 118-111 overtime loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, which followed a 124-119 double overtime defeat in Charlotte on Monday. After leading by 10 early in the fourth quarter, the Knicks went on a 14-3 run to take a one-point lead with a little over five minutes to play; the Jazz shot 1-for-10 and committed three turnovers during the stretch. The Jazz shot just 31.8 percent in the final period, but thanks to a Kristaps Porzingis foul on a Gordon Hayward three point attempt with 2.4 seconds to play, the Jazz were able to force overtime after three made free throws tied the game at 99-99. A 9-2 overtime run by the Knicks, however, would finally do the Jazz in. Second year guard Rodney Hood led the Jazz with 29 points: his second highest point total of the season.
The Jazz, currently one game behind Sacramento for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, have been hampered by injuries and stagnancy on the offense all season. Center Rudy Gobert missed 18 games earlier this season with a knee injury, and starting power forward Derrick Favors has missed the last 15 games with a back injury. Last season’s starting point guard for the last 40 games, Dante Exum, has missed the entire season recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the summer. Rookie Raul Neto has started all but one game at point guard, averaging 5.7 points and 2.4 assists in 19.2 minutes. Trey Burke has gotten the bulk of the minutes at point guard, but is averaging just 2.6 assists in 24.8 minutes. The Jazz are last in the league in assists at 18.1 per game, and play the league’s slowest pace.
The Nets dropped both games to the Jazz last season. On January 24th in Salt Lake City, the Jazz walloped the Nets 108-73 behind 53.2 percent shooting led by Hayward’s 24 point (10-for-14 FGs) performance. On March 8th at Barclays Center, the Nets lost 95-88 despite shooting 50 percent from the field. The Jazz won the battle on the glass 43-30, led by Gobert’s 11. Hayward once again led the Jazz with 24 points.
Milestone watch: Joe Johnson is 36 minutes shy of becoming the 31st player in NBA history to reach 40,000 career minutes played. Johnson will become the eighth active player to reach 40,000 career minutes, joining Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter and Andre Miller.