One night after being blown out in Denver, the Brooklyn Nets (42-30) will play their last road game against a western conference team this season against the Utah Jazz (37-36). The Jazz probably need this win more than the Nets do as they are battling the Lakers and Mavericks for the final playoff spot in the western conference. They have been inconsistent all season. Utah is currently on a 3-game winning streak which is following a 4-game losing streak. The Jazz have been much better this season against non-playoff competition, so that is a good sign for the Nets. However, Utah has one of the best home records in the league at 26-9. They are only 11-27 on the road.
When these teams played earlier this season, the Jazz shocked the Nets in Brooklyn, winning a close game. That was one of the last games that Avery Johnson would coach. Mo Williams led Utah in that game with 19 points.
Even though the Nets have one more game remaining on this road trip, they will be going home to New York before that game in Cleveland on Wednesday, so this feels like the last game of the trip. If they can win this one, they will improve to 5-2, which is excellent for a very difficult 7-game trip. If they lose, 4-3 isn’t bad, but it won’t help their playoff positioning at all. After last night’s loss, the Nets are 3.5 games behind both the Knicks and Pacers, and are going to need to win nearly all of their games and also get some help from one of those teams to avoid playing Miami in the second round of the playoffs.
Injuries: Joe Johnson is again doubtful for the Nets. Enes Kanter is out for Utah.
Deron Williams vs. Mo Williams. Advantage: Deron
Mo Williams is a pretty average NBA point guard. He had one of his best games of the season last night as he scored 28 points in Portland, but he has been very inconsistent this month. I am anticipating a huge game from Deron tonight. He will be very motivated to play in this game because last year when he visited Utah for the first time since he got traded, he was booed and the Nets got blown out. Now, he is healthy and is on a better team. I think he’s going to score 30 tonight.
Keith Bogans vs. Randy Foye. Advantage: Foye
Both these guys are 3-point shooters. Foye is shooting the 3 at almost 41% this season, so he is dangerous. Defensively, Bogans is the better player.
Gerald Wallace vs. Gordon Hayward. Advantage: Hayward
Hayward has been playing very well recently. Since the all-star break he has only scored in single-digits twice, even though his team has been struggling. He is still only 23 years old and is one of the more athletic players on this team. Wallace has had a couple of good games on this road trip but he struggled last night in Denver.
Reggie Evans vs. Paul Millsap. Advantage: Millsap
Millsap was involved in many rumors at the trade deadline but ended up staying in Utah. He is a better offensive player than Reggie Evans, but Reggie has now recorded two straight 15-15 games for the first time in his career. Utah is a pretty good rebounding team with Millsap, Jefferson, and Favors, but still expect Reggie to grab at least 12 or 13 rebounds in this game.
Brook Lopez vs. Al Jefferson. Advantage: Lopez
Lopez is coming off one of the worst games of his season, but still has played pretty well on this road trip. Jefferson was involved in trade rumors like Millsap, but is still in Utah and is averaging 17 points and 9 rebounds per game. One of the keys for Brooklyn tonight will be Lopez’s rebounding. He needs to have more than 5 rebounds tonight against a pretty big Utah team.
Prediction: Nets 102, Jazz 85.
Led by Deron Williams, I think the Nets are going to blow out the Jazz tonight. Both teams are playing the second game of back-to-backs and the Nets were at elevation last night while Utah was not. Deron Williams is going to be extra motivated tonight and so will the Nets, who can make this the most successful road trip in franchise history with a win.