A tree grew in Brooklyn.
Led by a sensational performance from 7-foot-1 center Rudy Gobert on both ends, the Jazz came away with a 101-91 win against the Nets on a drama-filled Wednesday night.
Gobert’s 23 points speaks for itself. Coming on 10-of-14 shooting, Gobert had one of his best offensive games of the season, finishing around the rim with hook shots, scoop layups and, of course, thundering dunks. The pick of the bunch was a punctuating throwdown over Nets center Jarrett Allen with a minute left, which convincingly completed the Jazz’s comeback win.
But Gobert’s defense was even more impactful: the Nets just couldn’t find any success at the rim. The Nets finished with just 32 points in the paint, and shot only 44 percent (11 of 25) in the rim area. Add the rest of the paint, and matters only get worse: The Nets finished shooting just 16 of 43 in the paint, 37 percent. It was especially bad late in the game, when Brooklyn couldn’t find a shot. With Brooklyn scoring only 13 points in the fourth quarter, the Jazz’s comeback from an eight-point deficit at the beginning of the period was on.
“We did a good job defending,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “We were excellent on the defensive end, and when we can score off our defense, that’s the recipe for us.”
That scoring came from Gobert’s co-star, Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell was making a comeback of his own in two ways; from a rib contusion that cost him most of the Jazz’s last three games, and a return to the city where he spent much of his youth. Over 50 of Mitchell’s biggest fans watched the Jazz sophomore guard hit shot after shot in the Jazz’s fourth quarter, eventually outscoring Brooklyn 14-13 in the period. He finished with 29 points overall.
“We were in the same spot against Indiana, down 10 in the third, and it went the other way. I think having just played that game, it was a good reminder for us to be like, ‘look, we can’t have this happen again,’" Mitchell said. "We have to bounce back. That just shows how as a team we stay locked in.”
It wasn’t the only change for Utah. Alec Burks was traded away shortly after the team arrived at the arena, learning of the deal mid-warmup. After informing the locker room — and putting everyone in a temporary state of shock — Burks packed his things and left the game, headed directly to Cleveland. In his place comes former Jazzman Kyle Korver, for yet another comeback to add to the night’s list.
Whether it was the surprise that caused the slow start, or just another one in a litany of slow starts, is anybody’s guess. But once again, the Jazz started the game by playing sloppily, picking up 19 turnovers overall. The difference this time was the Jazz’s transition defense was excellent: they only gave up 14 points off of those 19 turnovers, and only eight fast break points for the game. Spencer Dinwiddie led Brooklyn with 18 points off the bench, but the Brooklyn starters were largely kept under wraps. D’Angelo Russell, for example, scored only 14 points while taking 25 shots.
And for just the second time this season, the Jazz found themselves playing a team with a below .500 record. The first such contest — against the 9-11 Houston — was a win, too. The Jazz’s next opponent, Charlotte, has an 11-10 record; Utah wraps up the 3-game road trip with a meeting with the 7-13 Miami Heat.