SALT LAKE CITY — The Nets’ brutal seven-game road trip, starting with six Western Conference teams, is exactly what they thought it would be. It’s a house of horrors, and Saturday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena, the Jazz also administered a strong dose of humiliation in a 114-98 victory.
It was the second straight loss on the trip for the Nets (36-35) after their defeat Wednesday in Oklahoma City, and their problems putting the ball in the basket were witnessed from courtside by owner Mikhail Prokhorov. They have little time to mope because they face a back-to-back against the Clippers on Sunday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
If there was a common theme to the Nets’ losses to the Thunder and the Jazz, it’s that their offense was stymied by the rim-protecting talents of Steven Adams in Oklahoma City and then by Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors in Utah.
“It’s huge,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said of that disruptive force. “We obviously had trouble finishing at the rim, and we’re not making our threes. That’s an issue. Two elite rim protectors that we didn’t do well against. I felt like we settled for too many midrange shots, and when we got to the rim, we couldn’t finish.”
Lately, it seems the Nets’ offense largely has consisted of point guards D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie taking turns getting their shot rather than creating for others. Not that they aren’t trying to create, but no one around them is producing consistently.
Dinwiddie totaled 22 points and shot 7-for-16 with only one assist, and Russell had 20 points, shooting 8-for-25. Their combined 41 shots were just shy of half of the Nets’ field-goal attempts when both left the game. The Nets were held to 34.7-percent shooting from the field (33-for-95). Caris LeVert (six points on 3-for-12 shooting), Joe Harris (six, 2-for-8), DeMarre Carroll (5, 2-for-9) and Jarrett Allen (4, 0-for-1) all had rough nights.
Russell was candid when asked about the volume of shots he and Dinwiddie put up looking for an offensive spark.
“When you play point, that’s the toughest thing is balancing out when to score and when to facilitate,” Russell said. “When you’re facilitating and you’re not making shots, I think that piggybacks on wanting to do more on the offensive end when the ball is in your hand. But it wasn’t falling for us, either, and the defense lacked, as well, on our part. That didn’t make it easy for us.”
The Jazz (40-29) got a powerhouse performance from Gobert with 23 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks, Donovan Mitchell topped them with 24 points, and Favors added 13 points and 12 rebounds.
After building an early eight-point lead, the Nets suddenly went ice cold. The Jazz mounted an unreal 27-2 run that spanned the end of the first quarter and the start of the second as they took a 40-23 lead. The Nets went 0-for-12 from the field with one turnover while going 6:42 between scores at one point. Foul trouble that sidelined the Nets’ Allen and Rodions Kurucs was a contributing factor.
“When we made substitutions, that’s when they got their big break,” Atkinson said of the Jazz. “Our bench was not great tonight.”
It got worse in the second half when the Jazz led by as much as 26 points. Asked if he had a particular postgame message to his team after such a poor start to a critical road trip, Atkinson said: “Yeah, I think it’s fighting through adversity. When we’re not making shots, we broke down in transition.
“I think we lost focus when we weren’t making shots, and we kind of lost our discipline. That’s the thing that really bothers me.”