In their attempt to qualify for the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Brooklyn Nets took a step forward Wednesday night.
Joe Johnson scored 27 points and Andray Blatche added a season-high 25 as Brooklyn rallied for a 105-99 victory over Utah at EnergySolutions Arena.
The Nets trailed at halftime, 56-48. They were down by 13 early in the third quarter. But Utah went only 2-for-11 from the three-point line in the second half.
“Our defense was big,” Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd said. “We took the three out [of play] and I thought the guys kept fighting. They stayed together. We didn’t break.
“Being on the road against a team that’s playing extremely well, the defense got us back in the game. And our bench was big. Everybody chipped in.”
The Nets improved to 25-27 this season by prevailing in Utah for the first time in five years. The Jazz had a three-game winning streak snapped.
“This is a crucial part of the season for us,” said Deron Williams. “We have to be mentally focused on this trip. Coming straight off the All-Star break and going on the road for two weeks, it’s not an easy task. ... [But] we started it off good.”
Williams, the former Jazz point guard, finished with 19 points and seven assists. He went only 6-for-15 from the field but his three-pointer with 2:11 left made it 99-89 and sealed the victory.
“We are playing a lot better defensively,” Williams said. “When we don’t, we struggle. I think you saw that in the first half. We allowed a lot of open threes. But we were able to cut that down in the second half.”
Teammate Andrei Kirilenko, who also previously played in Utah, agreed.
“It’s always tough to play against them in this building,” he said. “... But I think we matched their energy. In the beginning, they were more active [and] aggressive. It put us in a tough position. But we made enough energy in the third quarter to get the lead back.”
Before the game, the Nets announced they had traded Jason Terry and Reggie Evans to Sacramento for Marcus Thornton.
The NBA trade deadline is Thursday.
Said Paul Pierce: “We’ve got to welcome Marcus Thornton with open arms, understand we are in the middle of a second-half run and try to involve him as much as we can -- make him a part of the family.”