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Kyrie Irving's 32 points not enough for Nets in loss to hot Jazz

Nets guard Kyrie Irving questions a call during

Nets guard Kyrie Irving questions a call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz at Barclays Center on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Nets owner Joseph Tsai, who was in attendance at the Nets-Jazz game at Barclays Center on Tuesday night, said in a pregame interview with YES Network that he was “absolutely” willing to pay a luxury tax going forward.

Tsai also mentioned the possibility of the Nets winning a championship.

That may happen someday. But the Nets could not overcome the hottest team in the NBA on Tuesday night, leaving dreams of a championship celebration at the confluence of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues for another night.

Joe Ingles scored 27, Donovan Mitchell added 25 and Rudy Gobert had 22 points and 18 rebounds as the Jazz won its 10th in a row, 118-107.

 Kyrie Irving led the Nets (18-21) with 32 points and 11 assists in 32 minutes in his second game back from a shoulder injury. Irving shot 12-for-19.

 The Nets, who had won two in a row after a seven-game losing streak, play at Philadelphia on Wednesday night. Coach Kenny Atkinson said the plan was for Irving to play in both games.

“Oh, yeah, I’m in tomorrow,” Irving said after the game. “For sure.”

Tsai, who became sole owner of the Nets and the arena in August, was asked on YES if he is willing to pay the luxury tax to make the Nets a true title contender.          

“Absolutely,” he said. “I think the fans expect that we [will] win a championship and the good thing is I do believe we have the pieces in place. I mean, now we have some injuries and people are coming back, but the fundamental pieces are in place to perhaps go all the way. I’m absolutely comfortable that if we pay luxury tax, that’s fine.”

The Nets, who fell behind by as much as 20 in the third quarter, closed to within eight (99-91) with 6:46 left in the fourth. That was as close as they could get to Utah (28-12).

 “Great job by the Utah Jazz,” Atkinson said. “Kind of in the infant stages with this new team. It’s going to take some time. I would say right now they’re far ahead of us. We’ve got a long way to go to catch a team like that.”

 The Nets’ early effort did not appear to please Atkinson. The perturbed coach called a timeout with two minutes left in the first quarter after Utah’s crawling Jordan Clarkson beat a pair of Nets to a loose ball and fed Tony Bradley for a stuff and a 25-20 Jazz lead.

After the timeout, the Nets scored the next six points to take the lead. But Mitchell hit a pair of free throws with 1.4 seconds left to put the Jazz back on top. And, to potentially further perturb Atkinson, former Knick Emmanuel Mudiay stole the ensuing inbounds pass and hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to make it 30-26 Jazz after one.

 After the Nets closed the gap, the Jazz used a 14-2 run at the end of the second quarter to take a 59-45 lead into halftime. The Nets missed their last seven shots of the half.

Mitchell hit a three to open the second half and Joe Ingles hit one for the Jazz with 8:02 left in the third. That second one expanded Utah’s lead to 76-56 and led to another timeout by the exasperated Atkinson, who had been whistled for a technical foul three minutes earlier after a foul call on Spencer Dinwiddie (17 points).

The Nets blew out the hapless Hawks on Sunday in Irving’s first game back. The Jazz are not the Hawks.

“You look at them on film,” Irving said, “and there’s a reason why they’re 15-1 in their last 16. You’ve got to give them credit.”

 Notes & quotes: Wilson Chandler (hamstring) and Garrett Temple (knee contusion) were among the inactive Nets. Both played in the previous game after sitting out Friday vs. Miami with the same injuries.

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