For the Brooklyn Nets, the opening 24 minutes of their seven-game road trip went exceedingly well, perhaps even better than anticipated. It was the final 24 minutes that led to a disappointing loss in Oklahoma City.
Three nights after opening their season-long road trip by collapsing in the second half, the Nets hope to rebound Saturday night when they visit the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City.
The Nets (36-34) head to Utah after sustaining a 108-96 loss at Oklahoma City in a game where they scored the first nine points and led by 17 with five minutes left in the second quarter. In the second half, the Nets were outscored 66-44 (30-10 in the paint), shot 35 percent and committed nine turnovers.
The collapse in Oklahoma City snapped a four-game winning streak and occurred two nights after a dominating 103-75 home rout of the Detroit Pistons.
"Handling physicality is our next step," Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said. "It's a good lesson for this road trip, being able to handle the physicality of when a team really turns it up like that."
"This is definitely something where a young group has to continue to learn and go through because the playoffs are going to be similar to this, and we have to keep growing and getting better," Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie added.
Dinwiddie scored 25 points Wednesday and is averaging 19.4 points in seven games since returning from a right thumb injury.
Utah has matched a season high by going 10 games over .500 for the third time after improving to 39-29 with a 120-100 home win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday. The Jazz also are 19-9 in their last 28 games since they were last under .500.
On Thursday, Utah played its first home game since a verbal incident between a fan and Thunder guard Russell Westbrook. Before coasting to their latest win, Jazz owner Gail Miller addressed the crowd in a speech that lasted a few minutes.
Utah's latest win was defined by two strong defensive stretches at the end of the third and fourth quarters.
"We just have to come out with that mindset every night," Utah guard Donovan Mitchell told reporters "We kind of got away from that in Memphis. We had it in New Orleans, got away from it in Memphis. I think it's a little bit of a wakeup call.
"We got right back into it, and I think we just have to continue this same mindset on defense and not let it falter with these upcoming games."
Mitchell scored 24 points, including a thunderous baseline dunk, to continue his surge after the All-Star break. In 11 games since the break, he is averaging 29 points on 45.7 percent shooting.
Mitchell is not the only Utah player on a roll of late.
Derrick Favors collected 17 points and 11 rebounds Wednesday, and in his last seven games, he is averaging 15.3 points and eight rebounds on 63.8 percent shooting.
Rudy Gobert also produced another double-double with 10 and 13 rebounds. He has double-doubles in five of his last six games and 54 overall.
The Jazz claimed the first meeting by outscoring Brooklyn 31-13 in the fourth quarter of a 101-91 win on Nov. 28.
--Field Level Media