The Brooklyn Nets entered their game against the Utah Jazz with a matching 5-7 record. However, the two teams are polar opposites in every way but the win-loss column. The Nets play at the league’s fastest pace, while the Jazz play at one of the slowest. Brooklyn is an offense-first team, and Utah is a defense-first team. The Nets were arguably over-achieving at 5-7, while Utah has been disappointing after winning 51 games last season.
The Nets managed to win the pace battle, but ultimately lost the war as Utah won 114-106. While this game sadly ended in a Nets loss, there were some important takeaways from this game for the Nets to focus on in preparation for their upcoming clash with the Boston Celtics.
Second Quarter Struggles
While the third quarter was a major issue for the Brooklyn Nets last season (and has been an occasional issue this year), the Nets lost this game in the second quarter in a manner reminiscent of some of their worst losses this season. The Nets outscored Utah in the second half, and the game was tied 25-25 after the first quarter. However, the Nets were outscored 36-20 in the second quarter. The Jazz owned that quarter with a crushing 20-4 run to start the period.
That second quarter malaise has hurt this Nets team before. They led the Knicks by five points after one quarter on October 27, only to lose the second quarter 24-14. They were down just one point after one quarter against the Lakers, but lost the game in the second quarter when they allowed 34 points to Los Angeles. On the flip side, the Nets were down by six against the Hawks earlier in the year but turned the game around with a 37-point second period. The second quarter is not yet as big of an issue for the Nets as the third quarter was last season. However, they lost this game because of their poor second quarter performance.
A Young Man’s Game
This contest was controlled by two 21-year-old rising stars. D’Angelo Russell put up 26 points on 17 shots, while dishing out three assists for the Nets. On the other side of the court was Donovan Mitchell, who put up 26 points on 18 shots, while dishing out three assists for the Jazz.
Just like the clash between the styles of their two teams, these young guards are close to complete opposites. Mitchell is already looking like one of the steals of this past draft after being taken with the 13th overall pick. His spectacular athleticism and defensive intensity mask a somewhat shaky jump shot. Russell, on the other hand, is a scoring machine with a beautiful jump shot who does not have elite NBA athleticism or all that much defensive intensity. Ultimately, however, both Russell and Mitchell used their strengths to finish the night with eerily similar stat lines.
Rondae Finding His Way (to the line)
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s leap has arguably been the biggest storyline of this young season in Brooklyn. His stats have jumped across the board, as has his defensive intensity. His confidence might be at an all-time high, as he has been more aggressive at attacking the basket than at any other point in his career.
Hollis-Jefferson showed that increased aggressiveness in driving to the rim in this game and was repeatedly sent to the stripe for his troubles. He went 11-of-12 from the free throw line in this game, increasing his free throw percentage to a career-high 85.5 percent. The forward is also now averaging 5.8 free throw attempts per game, a massive jump over his 3.2 free throw attempts per game last year. He has been on the attack far more this season than he has in the past, and he and his team are looking better as a result of that.