SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Donovan Mitchell showed no mercy against a Brooklyn Nets team missing most of its starting lineup.
“The biggest thing was trying to be aggressive, get downhill, make plays, get on the rim and finish,” Mitchell said. “That was just my mindset from the jump.”
Mitchell scored 27 points and the Utah Jazz routed the short-handed Nets 118-88 on Wednesday night.
The Jazz jumped to a 21-point lead in the first quarter against the depleted Nets, who never really threatened to make it a competitive game.
“Tonight, we really showed the mental fortitude throughout the entire game to continue keep our foot on the pedal,” Mitchell said.
Bojan Bogdanovic, who was mired in a 3-for-25 shooting slump from 3-point range, made 4 of 6 3-point attempts and scored 18 for the Jazz, who have won four of five.
“It felt great to see shots go in,” Bogdanovic said.
This matchup between Eastern and Western Conference contenders lost some luster when the Nets James Harden was scratched due to a sore neck. He joined teammates Kevin Durant (left hamstring strain) and Kyrie Irving (personal reasons) on the injured list.
“We want to play against guys like KD, Kyrie, James Harden — that’s what competitiveness is … but we’re not gonna change how we play or our mindset because those guys aren’t in the game,” Mitchell said.
Alize Johnson, who was signed to a 10-day contract on Monday, had a career-high 23 points and 15 rebounds. Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot added 14 for Brooklyn.
“That’s a great team. That’s the team with the best record in the league. We went out there severely undermanned. Most importantly, (our players) stuck together and played hard,” Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said.
Mitchell made five 3-pointers in three quarters of action. He has increased his efficiency of late, averaging 32.5 points over his last four games.
The Jazz played at home for the first time this month. They had slipped from the hottest team in the NBA to one struggling to score and defend.
“We had a really tough schedule on the road for the 21 out of 27 days … so we are trying to find a rhythm and play that Jazz basketball that everybody loves,” Bogdanovic said.
Utah, which has the best record in the NBA at 32-11, remained stingy on defense while firing 3-pointers from every angle. The Jazz made 23 of 55 from beyond the arc against Brooklyn’s slow defensive rotations.
The Nets had won 16 of 18 games despite missing one primary player or another most nights. The latest example was Harden’s 25 points and a career-high 17 assists to power Brooklyn past Portland 116-112 on Tuesday night.
But Harden wasn’t on the court against the Jazz and the Nets sorely missed his scoring and playmaking skills Brooklyn shot 35% and had only 19 assists as a team. Harden was engaged in the game, coaching his teammates and even directing a few words toward the officials.
Mike Conley scored 10 of his 18 points in the first 4:22 of the game to stake the Jazz to a 16-4 lead. By the end of the quarter, Utah led 38-17. That was a role reversal from Utah’s worst showing of the season on Jan. 5 in Brooklyn, when the Nets led 35-14 on their way to a 130-96 win.
Meanwhile, Joe Harris, the lone regular starter for the Nets, played five scoreless minutes and sat for the rest of the game.
At halftime, the Jazz led 63-38 – the lowest scoring first half of the season for Brooklyn.
Mitchell made a driving layup and 3-pointer to put the Jazz up 78-40 in the third quarter, which was their largest margin over an opponent all season.
Even with all their stars, the Nets have struggled defensively this season and relied on their supercharged offense to get their wins. But without their sharpshooters, the Nets’ league-leading .587 effective shooting percentage seemed a distant memory.
The Nets have dropped five straight in Utah and their last road victory over the Jazz was 98-96 in 2016.
FROM THE PLANE TO THE COURT
Johnson joined the Nets in Salt Lake City on Wednesday morning and only had time to go over a few plays and concepts. No one expected the career highlight double-double he posted.
“He was great. Stuffed the stat sheet. Played good defense. Had tons of energy. I don’t think he’s really played since the G League bubble. Heck of an effort from him,” Nash said.
Johnson wanted to make the most of his opportunity.
“(I wanted to) just prove to everybody that I belong here in the NBA. I’ve put in a lot of hard work,” said Johnson, who didn’t have a single play run for him.
Nets: Spencer Dinwiddie (partially torn ACL, right knee), Blake Griffin (left knee injury management) and Landry Shamet (right ankle sprain) also sat out. … The loss snapped the Nets’ franchise-record road win streak against Western Conference opponents at nine game (dating to Jan. 29 at Oklahoma City). …. Chris Chiozza, who was inactive for seven straight games, had 10 points and season-high nine assists.
Jazz: Joe Ingles was 18 of 22 from 3-point range over the three previous games, which marked the best three-game stretch from outside the arc in NBA history, but Ingles went 1 for 6 from 3-point range Wednesday. … Jazz now have five wire-to-wire wins this season. … After missing his first five 3-pointers, Jordan Clarkson made one in the third quarter to run his streak to 69 games with at least one 3.
Nets: Visit the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.
Jazz: Host the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.
https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports