The Brooklyn Nets hope a late, though unsuccessful, comeback attempt on Thursday at Phoenix will give them some momentum entering a Friday game against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City.
After falling behind the Suns by 24 points in the third quarter, the Nets rallied behind the hot hand of Kyrie Irving to pull within two in the final seconds.
Though the Nets wound up losing 117-112 to fall to 0-4 since Kevin Durant was lost to a knee injury, Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn hopes his team learned a lesson.
“We didn’t come to play at the beginning of the game,” said Vaughn, a former Jazz player.
They did come out strong at the end, though. Irving scored 21 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter as the Nets outscored the Suns 38-23.
Irving sliced the Nets’ deficit to 113-110 by sinking a 3-pointer with 11.1 seconds remaining. One Phoenix free throw preceded a dunk by Brooklyn’s Nic Claxton (20 points, 11 rebounds) with 8.1 seconds left, but Claxton subsequently missed two foul shots and the Suns sealed the victory at the line.
Vaughn wants to see that type of effort from the tip as the struggling Nets head into the third leg of their four-game road trip.
“When we break the huddle, can the group that goes out on the floor have the determination to be focused the very first possession and care about it just as much as we were trying to do in the fourth quarter?” Vaughn said. “And the group on the bench be cheering your teammates on just like we were doing when we were trying to make a comeback?
“That’s what I want this group to get to.”
The Friday game will present a challenge for Brooklyn. Around the same time the Nets started struggling following Durant’s injury — after a stretch in which they won 18 of 20 games — the Jazz began improving their results.
Utah has won four of its past five games, including a Monday road victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves and a Wednesday home triumph vs. the Los Angeles Clippers. The Jazz took it to the short-handed Clippers, picking up a 126-103 victory in a game they never trailed.
“Our team showed really good focus for four quarters,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “Winning all four quarters is really hard to do in an NBA game.”
Lauri Markkanen had a huge game against Los Angeles after missing two games due to a bruised hip. He scored 34 points — with six 3-pointers and a highlight-reel dunk — and grabbed 12 rebounds.
It was the 11th time this season that Markkanen reached the 30-point mark. He got off to a great start, scoring the first seven points, and kept rolling from there.
“I wanted to be aggressive and get going early,” Markkanen said. “Just get in the rhythm of the game.”
The most impressive sequence for Markkanen came in the third quarter as he helped the Jazz re-establish a double-digit lead for good, first destroying the rim while dunking over center Ivica Zubac and then splashing in a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession.
“I’m noticing it’s pretty fun to dunk,” Markkanen said. “It’s just a mindset going to the rim. No matter really who’s in front of you, either I’m going to get a dunk or get two free throws.”
–Field Level Media