Behind some sharp outside shooting and some timely defensive stops, the Utah Jazz came away with yet another road victory, defeating the Brooklyn Nets, 95-88, Sunday.
Why the Jazz won: After a few games where the offense struggled a bit, Utah's execution was humming quite smoothly. Thanks to some solid playmaking, Utah got good looks at the basket all evening. It was continually making the extra passes, and that gave the perimeter players open shots from downtown. It certainly helped that the Jazz were hitting those 3-point attempts. While the Nets, too, executed fairly well, Utah once again made some key defensive stops in the fourth quarter to help break open a close game. It is a broken record, but Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors came up big, scoring 24 and 22 points, respectively. Rookie Dante Exum also had his best offensive outing in some time, chipping in 14 points.
Turning point: It was a tight game going into the fourth quarter, and an early burst helped Utah gain 76-67 point advantage. Led by center Brook Lopez, the Nets darted out on a quick 10-2 run, putting the Jazz in a precarious position. Enter Hayward. As he has done throughout the season, the swingman hit a big shot — a tough 3-pointer that not only gave the Jazz some breathing room, but set the tenor for a 10-0 run for Utah as well, sealing the win for the Jazz. When it was said and done, Utah outscored Brooklyn 53-45 in the second half.
What it means: Utah was one heartbreaking Tyler Zeller lay-up away from a 4-0 road trip. Even with that loss, the Jazz now stand at 7-2 since the All-Star break, which also coincides with the Enes Kanter trade. There really are some very positive things happening, and the team’s confidence is growing each passing game. There is a prevailing feeling that the Jazz can compete in any game, no matter the opponent. They are winning at home and now are showing a heightened ability on the road. Head coach Quin Snyder is getting a lot out of his team, and the growth is evident.
Grading the performance: Brooklyn took it right at the Jazz early on and were able to take advantage inside. The outside shooting kept Utah in it and was strong throughout. The Jazz starters were very good and the bench kept things going. Guys like Trevor Booker, Rodney Hood and Elijah Millsap were disruptive on defense and injected energy into the game.
Utah Jazz grade: B
Brooklyn has been struggling of late, and that continued versus the Jazz. The Nets had a hard time stopping Utah’s perimeter game and only made it to the free-throw line 11 times. While Lopez and the newly acquired Thaddeus Young had nice games, former Jazz All-Star Deron Williams and Joe Johnson looked out of sorts. Williams had only six points and four assists in 30 minutes.
Brooklyn Nets grade: C+
Three telling stats:
— Point guard play is a huge factor for Utah. The tandem of Exum and Trey Burke was very solid, combining to score 26 points on 10 of 17 shooting, including 6 of 9 from downtown. While the assist marks were pedestrian — five total — they helped run the team very well.
— Rebounding has been a strong point for the Jazz all season. Moving Rudy Gobert to the starting lineup has only enhanced that for Utah. It dominated the boards, 43-30, with Gobert snatching 11 and Favors and Booker corralling eight apiece.
— Utah handed out 24 assists, accounting for 70.6 percent of its made field goals. Four players dished out four or more dimes with Gobert pacing the Jazz with five.
Up next: The Jazz will spend this week at home starting with a Tuesday tilt with the New York Knicks. Former Jazzman Derek Fisher is having a rough go his first season as head coach. Forward Carmelo Anthony is out for the rest of the season.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.