SALT LAKE CITY — Coming off a 26-point blowout loss in Phoenix, the Nets did a good job of overcoming their penchant for slow starts by building a 15-point halftime lead over the Jazz on Tuesday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena. But this time, they were unable to sustain a strong finishing kick, blowing an eight-point fourth-quarter lead on their way to a 119-114 loss.
The slow starts against the Jazz came in the third and fourth quarters. The Nets withstood a 13-0 Jazz run to open the third and pushed their lead back to eight, but the Jazz opened the fourth quarter with a 13-4 burst, including a trio of threes by Jeff Green to take a 97-96 lead with 9:11 left to play. The teams traded the lead four more times before Nets center DeAndre Jordan tied it at 114 on a putback with 1:15 left to play.
Then Rudy Gobert put the Jazz ahead for good with a layup for a 116-114 lead with 56.8 seconds left. The Nets had a chance to go ahead, but Kyrie Irving, who had a rough 10-for-30 shooting night that included 2-for-12 from three-point range, missed a three-pointer with 4.4 seconds left.
“It was execution down the stretch,” Irving said. “They made some hustle plays. I had misses down the stretch, we had a few turnovers. We kept battling. We had a good chance down the stretch.
“The whole night, I just felt like I had some great looks at the three-point line. We’ll shoot it better. If I make those, it’s a different story. But missing them, it could be fatigue, it could be anything. But for me, it’s just keep shooting.”
Irving led the Nets (4-6) with 27 points, Spencer Dinwiddie scored 21 but played just the first 2:14 of the fourth quarter, and Jordan provided 15 points and 17 rebounds.
Donovan Mitchell topped the Jazz (8-3) with 30 points, Gobert had 18 points and 15 rebounds, Mike Conley added 18, and Emmanuel Mudiay made a valuable 15-point contribution.
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson had not planned to make any lineup changes, but a sprained right thumb suffered by Caris LeVert ruled him out. LeVert had an MRI but was undergoing further examination, and the Nets offered no update on his condition. Garrett Temple started in place of LeVert and did his best to defend Mitchell while chipping in 10 points, but he was scoreless in the second half.
Reflecting on the defensive breakdowns, Temple said: “That run at the beginning of the third is something we’ve got to nip in the bud. We were able to stop them before they took the lead. Then in the fourth, I think Emmanuel Mudiay was really a big factor tonight off the bench with 15. His biggest thing was getting to the line eight times. That was tough for us.”
Despite their strong defensive showing in the first half, the Nets lapsed by allowing 35 points by the Jazz in the final period even though they were on the second game of a back-to-back and should have worn down. Atkinson blamed the two defensive meltdowns in the third and fourth quarter for the loss.
He said he benched Dinwiddie down the stretch because he liked the lineup he had on the floor and stressed no discipline was involved. Dinwiddie and Irving both said they respected the coach’s decision.
“We had our opportunities,” Atkinson said. “There are no moral victories. We could have made a few more plays, quite honestly, both offensively and defensively. It’s such a fine line between winning and losing. But I liked our execution, and I thought our defense was much better. So there are a lot of positive things to build off this game.”