Slumping Nets continue to lack finishing touch
Squander NBA-High sixth double-digit lead in loss to Utah
“Always be closing!” was the memorable motivational phrase used by Alec Baldwin’s character in the film version of David Mamet’s play “Glengarry Glen Ross” about real estate agents here in our fair borough.
The Brooklyn Nets are in dire need of adapting and, more importantly, heeding that mantra following their most recent late-game disaster.
The Nets squandered a double-digit lead for an NBA-high sixth time this season Wednesday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center, suffering their season-high fourth consecutive loss in a 101-91 defeat to the defensive-minded Utah Jazz in front of 12,928 paying customers on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
Utah star Donovan Mitchell scored 14 of his game-high 31 points over the final 12 minutes, outscoring the entire Nets team in the fourth quarter as the Jazz went on a 31-13 game-closing run to send Brooklyn to its eight loss in the its last 10 games overall.
“We just haven’t improved enough to finish it out in the fourth quarter,” Nets center Jarrett Allen ceded after the Nets shot a combined 2-for-17 in the final period while allowing Mitchell and Jazz big man Rudy Gobert (23 points, 16 rebounds, four blocked shots) to take over down the stretch.
“But by the defense we’re playing, I don’t know the score, but it was a low-scoring game for most of the game, so our defense is definitely improving,” Allen added. “We just have to learn to keep it through all four quarters.”
Spencer Dinwiddie scored 18 points without a single assist and D’Angelo Russell added 14 points, albeit on 6-of-25 shooting, for Brooklyn (8-14), which fell to 3-7 at home this season and once again appears more likely to be in the hunt for a lottery pick rather than a playoff spot.
“It’s definitely tough. Mentally, we feel it,” Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson admitted after Brooklyn lost its fifth straight game at Barclays.
“We think about it. But basketball’s a long season. We’ve got to lock into the next game, next task. That’s what it comes down to at the end of the day, being focused, being ready.”
After being ahead by 11 points late in the third quarter and by eight heading into the fourth, the Nets got lambasted when it mattered most for the second consecutive game.
Philadelphia outscored Brooklyn 38-23 over the final 12 minutes here Sunday, handing the Nets a heartbreaking 127-125 loss on Jimmy Butler’s 3-pointer in the final seconds.
But this big lead was blown for good much earlier as Mitchell, back from a two-game absence due to bruised ribs, personally put the Nets to sleep with 12 points over the final 5 ½ minutes.
After Allen sunk a free throw to put Brooklyn ahead 87-86, Mitchell hit a pair of jumpers in the lane, drained a step-back 3-pointer and grabbed a rebound to start a fast break that Gobert finished with a layup to give Utah a 95-89 advantage with just over two minutes to play.
“We tried different things. We tried our best defender on him, Rondae,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said of Mitchell’s late-game splurge.
“I thought he hit some tough shots, tough floaters. One was over Jarrett. Then when he scored two or three in a row, we switched, we switched everything. … Credit to him. He made the plays down at the end of the game.”
This is something Brooklyn will have to do better if it hopes to avoid a fourth consecutive non-playoff campaign.
The Nets will try to avoid an 0-4 homestand Friday night when they host the Memphis Grizzlies (12-8), resuming a stretch in which they will play seven of eight games on their own court.
Nothing But Net: Hollis-Jefferson had 14 points and a season-high 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season Wednesday, but the Nets registered a season-low 11 assists as a team and were outscored 52-32 in the paint. … After hosting the Grizzlies here Friday, Brooklyn will visit the Washington Wizards Saturday night. The Nets will welcome Cleveland, Oklahoma City and Toronto here during next week’s three-game homestand.
In local college basketball action Wednesday, the St. Francis Brooklyn men’s team pulled out a 90-86 victory over Presbyterian in Clinton, South Carolina as sophomore guard Chauncey Hawkins poured in a career-high 27 points off the bench.
Senior forward Keon Williams and sophomore guard Jayden Jordan added 13 points apiece for the Terriers (4-3), who will return to the Pope Center to host St. Joseph’s Brooklyn on Remsen Street Monday night.
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