Saturday, September 23, 2023
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Preview: Utah Jazz (45-26) at Brooklyn Nets (37-34)

The Brooklyn Nets gave coach Steve Nash plenty of reasons to seethe after escaping Friday night with a closer-than-anticipated win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

At this point, Nash is pleased the Nets did just enough to win, but starting with Monday night’s visit from the Utah Jazz, he hopes to see better showings in his team’s quest to avoid a play-in game.

Eighth-place Brooklyn has 11 games remaining to move into sixth place in the Eastern Conference and is four games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, who currently hold the final guaranteed playoff spot and will host the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday.

After enduring a 3-17 skid from Jan. 23 to March 6, the Nets are 5-1 in their past six games and trail the seventh-place Toronto Raptors by three games.

On Friday, the Nets posted a 128-123 win over Portland, which entered the game with eight losses in nine games and seven double-digit defeats in that span. The Nets trailed 75-62 at halftime and erased an 18-point deficit early in the second half thanks to Kevin Durant and Seth Curry.

“I thought we wanted it easy. We wanted to solve the puzzle with the snap of our fingers instead of playing it,” Nash said. “Part of it is defensively, we weren’t locked in. Part of it is also offensively, not going the extra mile: to play with pace.”

Durant scored 14 of his 38 points in the third quarter on a night when he committed eight of Brooklyn’s 21 turnovers. Curry hit seven 3-pointers and added 27 points after missing three games with a sore left ankle.

“I was disappointed we gave away the first half as much (as we did) because it put us in a difficult position to win the game as it was that we wasted an opportunity to get better,” Nash told reporters after Sunday’s practice.

Utah heads to Brooklyn looking to inch closer to the third-place Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference. The fourth-place Jazz are within two games of Golden State after opening a season-high six-game trip with Sunday’s 108-93 win over the New York Knicks.

Utah has won three straight, with each win coming by 15 points or more. After cruising to a 29-point win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, the Jazz took the lead for good early in the second quarter and got a big game from Donovan Mitchell, allowed 40 second-half points, and blocked 11 shots.

Mitchell scored 36 points after sitting out Friday with a bruised right calf, and it marked the first time since Feb. 16-25, he topped 30 points in consecutive games. Mitchell carried the offense as former Net Bojan Bogdanovic missed a fourth straight game with a calf injury that could keep him sidelined Monday.

Mitchell delivered his latest productive game with his mother and aunt in the crowd, but the New York native is also focused on Utah producing a successful trip.

“It’s fun, just seeing friends and family, being able to do that, but also understanding that we have a job to do,” Mitchell said. “I think that’s what our focus was all day, understanding that if we can put ourselves in the right position for the playoffs, keeping the main thing the main thing regardless of what’s around.”

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