SALT LAKE CITY — Pushing the pace defines Brooklyn’s new approach to the offence.
The Nets want to play in attack mode. It means quicker shots, better shots and a more level playing field for a struggling team. Taking such an approach worked out well in a 98-96 victory over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.
Brooklyn disrupted passes and forced turnovers through all four quarters and created plenty of high-percentage shots on the other end. The Nets finished with a 23-12 advantage in fastbreak points. It gave them enough of a cushion to weather a late fourth-quarter rally by Utah.
"The pace that we want to play with – we’re doing it," Brooklyn guard Donald Sloan said. "The looks we want to get – we’re getting those. All in all, each game we’re getting more fluidity with what we’re trying to play."
Thaddeus Young had 21 points and eight rebounds while Brook Lopez added 19 to lead Brooklyn. Wayne Ellington chipped in 16 points for the Nets, who broke a three-game losing streak to the Jazz extending to last season.
Gordon Hayward scored 27 points and Rudy Gobert chipped in 12 points, a season-high 19 rebounds and six blocks to lead Utah. Rodney Hood scored 15 points while Derrick Favors added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
It wasn’t enough to keep Utah from losing at home to an Eastern Conference opponent for just the second time in nine games. The Jazz finished with 21 turnovers and shot just 25 per cent (5-of-20) from 3-point range.
"Our whole team struggled tonight," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "I just didn’t think we had the juice or energy we needed."
Trailing by 13 points midway through the fourth quarter, the Jazz rallied and cut the deficit to 92-89 on a 3-pointer from Hayward with 46.9 seconds left. Lopez dunked it to push the lead back to five. Hayward answered with a dunk of his own and then Rodney Hood made three free throws to trim Brooklyn’s lead to 96-94 with 15.6 seconds left.
Donald Sloan and Ellington each went 1-of-2 at the line down the stretch, giving Utah a chance to win it in the final seconds. Joe Ingles’ 3-point attempt rimmed out at the buzzer, preserving the Nets’ victory.
"We definitely kept our composure," Lopez said. "We turned it over a few times and missed a few free throws to make it interesting. But we pulled it out. We always stuck with it. I don’t think there was any doubt we were going to win that game."
The Nets traded baskets with the Jazz well into the second quarter before eventually building up a 36-32 lead on a jumper from Lopez. Utah answered with a 7-0 run, punctuated by back-to-back layups from Ingles, and went up 39-36. Brooklyn countered with consecutive 3-pointers from Bogdanovic and Ellington to retake a 48-43 lead going into the locker room.
Utah trailed the Nets throughout the third quarter. The Jazz shot just 32 per cent (7-of-22) from the field in the quarter.
Utah went nearly five minutes without a field goal and Brooklyn took advantage, extending its lead to 70-59 after Young turned a steal into a dunk, Ellington drained a 3-pointer and Larkin drove for a layup in the final minute of the quarter.
"We got a little more ball pressure and our weak-side defence (was) a bit more engaged finding areas where they could be a little aggressive," Nets coach Tony Brown said. "Sometimes it turned into steals, sometimes it turned into deflections – just making it tough for the opponent to move the basketball."
Jazz: C Rudy Gobert has blocked three or more shots in 19 games this season. Utah fell to 14-5 in games where Gobert has at least three blocks. … F Gordon Hayward scored 7 of his game-high 27 points in the final minute. … Utah outscored Brooklyn 56-54 in the paint and outrebounded the Nets 48-45.
Nets: G Wayne Ellington has scored in double figures in 11 of his last 13 games. Ellington is averaging 11.9 points per game in that stretch. … Brooklyn has shot 37.1 per cent from 3-point range since Jan. 1. The Nets rank sixth in the league from distance during that time. They made 50 per cent (7-of-14) of their perimeter shots against Utah. … Brooklyn has recorded 10 or more steals in three straight games and four of its last five games. The Nets are averaging 11.1 steals per contest in that stretch and finished with 12 against Utah.
Jazz at Celtics on Monday.
Nets at Clippers on Monday.