The Brooklyn Nets closed out their three-game scrimmage schedule at the NBA Campus in Orlando with a 112-107 loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday night.
The Nets were within a basket in the final minute, trailing 107-105 before the Jazz closed things out. But in following up Saturday’s win over San Antonio, they got another pair of strong performances from two players who will have to be front and center with several other top-line players not participating, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen.
“I feel we got better as the games went on,” said LeVert. “Obviously, Utah is a tough opponent., and we tried to play similar minutes to what we play in a game. I’m happy with our performance today even though we didn’t get the win. I felt like we played hard. We got better, especially on the defensive end and our principles and being in the right spots and things like that. I think shot-making will come. We haven’t shot well necessarily as a team yet, but I think when that comes, it will all come together for us.”
After putting up 27 points against the Spurs, LeVert went for 23 on 11-of-22 shooting against the Jazz, plus six assists. While LeVert has become Brooklyn’s primary offensive option, Allen is taking on a similar responsibility at center. It’s not entirely new; Allen was the Nets’ starter for two years up until DeAndre Jordan moved into the starting lineup right before the season was suspended in March. But with Jordan and Nic Claxton out of the restart, Allen stands alone as the only Net over 6-foot-9.
He’s been superb through the first three scrimmages, posting three straight double-doubles. Against Utah on Monday night, it was 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting, plus 10 rebounds. Through the three scrimmage games, Allen made 17-of-22 shots.
“I loved the way he competed tonight against (Rudy) Gobert,” said LeVert. “Gobert’s one of the top bigs, one of the top rim protectors in the league, and I think JA’s up there as well. Once he comes into his own, I think he’s coming into his own every single game and I think games like tonight really show that. He’s just got to be consistent with it. He knows what we expect from him as a team and I think he expects the same thing from himself. I can’t wait for him to keep getting better and see what his ceiling is.”
The Nets got another efficient night from Rodions Kurucs in his new role as Allen’s backup center, with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-4 from 3-pointe range, plus six rebounds. Tyler Johnson had 11 points, and Chris Chiozza had seven assists for the second straight game.
The Nets fell behind by 13 points after the first quarter, and were still trailing 62-50 at halftime. They were down by 16 early in the third quarter before Allen and LeVert charged up a 13-0 run.
Allen got Brooklyn going with a rebound basket, LeVert came up with a steal and a dunk and a pull-up jumper, then fed Allen for a dunk. Allen scored again on slick interior feed from Chiozza, and Garrett Temple’s catch-and-shoot, turnaround 3-pointer off an inbounds pass brought Brooklyn within 70-67 with 5:35 to go in the quarter.
After Utah extended its lead back up to 12 points, the Nets cut into the gap in the final minutes, with a Justin Anderson 3-pointer bringing Brooklyn within 103-97 and — after a Utah basket — Jeremiah Martin’s elbow jumper and Dzanan Musa’s 3-pointer made it 105-103 with just under two minutes to go.
With the scrimmage schedule behind them, the Nets will look forward to tipping off the eight-game schedule Friday against the Orlando Magic.
“We’ll clean up some things,” said head coach Jacque Vaughn. “We’ll continue to reinforce some of the concepts. I think it’s a great three days for us. We’ll start with a day off tomorrow, give guys a chance to see how they responded from the increased minutes. And then two laser-focused days of preparation. Two big games for us at the beginning of this segment, so can we focus and maybe implement a few things that those teams haven’t seen and give ourselves a chance.”