The Nets’ most impressive win all season came in a beating of the Jazz just after the New Year. Wednesday’s meager rematch in Utah was just as crooked, leaning the other way.
James Harden’s neck injury knocked the Big 3 out of the game for the first time, and the result was as ugly as expected. The Nets were defeated 118-88 by the NBA’s leading Jazz in front of a packed crowd of 5,546 at Vivint Arena.
Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, Landry Shamet and Blake Griffin were already out, and the loss of Harden left Brooklyn decimated. Utah (32-11) did the rest, leading by as many as 38 points and beating up what was left of the Nets.
It was the Nets’ lowest-scoring production of the season, and they became the last team this year to suffer a loss by at least 20.
“Yeah, we don’t take any of this, we miss our top three players, we miss Blake,” Steve Nash said. “Once the game got out early, we were able to rest some of our other guys from the rotation.
“So we don’t get anything out of this game except the opportunity for young people to develop, play and have a chance. So we will move to Detroit and hope that some players will play again. “
Nash and his Nets had nothing to do with it other than being philosophical, cleaning up and moving on to Friday’s game in Detroit.
With only 10 active players, some of whom had literally just met, the Nets shot just 36.1 percent and 7-of-35 from 3-point range. They were actually led by newly hired G Leaguer Alize Johnson, who just arrived Tuesday night and went over a few basics the morning of the game.
The fact that Johnson led the Nets in scoring (23 points) and rebounds (15) was both a testament to him and an indicator of how the night went.
“Only [want to] show everyone that I belong to the NBA, I’ve worked hard and I’m going to keep working and be the best player I can be, ”said Johnson, who received advice from Nash and Harden.
“Go out and play hard and just have fun. Hearing that from those two guys gives you confidence to go out and play. “
Donovan Mitchell scored 27 points in 27 minutes for Utah, who posted a 17th consecutive victory at home.
“It’s a great team, the team with the best record in the league,” Nash said. “We went out with very few crew members and, most importantly, we stuck together, we played hard, defensively we were quite good; maybe we allowed too many 3-pointers, but otherwise we did a lot of good things defensively. I just told them I was proud of them. “
The Nets trailed 16-4 early on and lost by 21 after a first quarter.
It got out of hand so fast that Nash gave Joe Harris just 4:57 before deciding to rest him for the end of the Detroit tour on Friday. The loss left the Nets two games behind the 76ers for the first time in the East.
The Nets (30-15) had punched Utah 130-96 in their January 5 game, but this time around, the Jazz appeared to be part of the best team in the league.
The Nets had a more G League vibe, with rookie Reggie Perry scoring 12 points and eight rebounds in his first NBA appearance since Jan. 31.
“Just working hard all the time in the [G League] bubble and for the entire time after my return, ”Perry said. “It felt good to really go into a game and see that the work pays off a little bit, to be able to run a little bit.”
Utah’s Georges Niang closed the first quarter with a 3 to put the Jazz in a 38-17 lead. Brooklyn forced nine straight misses to get closer to 40-28 midway through the second, but an 18-4 run capped by a Royce O’Neale 3 put them down 58-32.
The Nets trailed 63-38 at halftime, their lowest-scoring half of the season. A 15-2 run by the Jazz to open the third widened the chasm to 78-40 in a Mitchell 3.