SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – The Utah Jazz have had some struggles on defense at home, which accounts for why they’re off to a slow start at EnergySolutions Arena.
The Jazz will look to bounce back after a tough loss Wednesday night when they host the New Jersey Nets, one of the NBA’s lowest-scoring teams.
Utah (7-4) has a league-best .811 win percentage at home over the past four seasons, but after four games, the Jazz have suffered losses to Phoenix and Oklahoma City and have given up 100 or more points in each of the contests.
After overcoming double-digit deficits in four straight road wins, Utah was on the wrong end of a rally Monday night in the opener of a three-game homestand, blowing a 12-point lead before losing 115-108 to the Thunder. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak.
“We had opportunities to put them away,” said Deron Williams, who finished with 31 points and 11 assists. “You look at the second and third quarters, where they score 31 and 35 points. That is way too many points to give up in a quarter. It all points to defense. We did a better job of executing tonight, but we didn’t get enough stops.”
It was the most points the Jazz allowed this season after their previous three opponents were all held below 100. Williams said part of the problem was the absence of Raja Bell due to a groin injury.
“He’s one of our better defenders,” Williams said.
Utah said Bell will be a game-time decision Wednesday. Rookie Gordon Hayward made his first start in Bell’s place Monday and had four points and two assists in 22 minutes.
The Jazz haven’t had problems containing New Jersey (4-6), holding them below 95 points in two wins last season, including 116-83 in Salt Lake City.
Devin Harris missed that game with a sprained wrist, and New Jersey, averaging 93.3 points, is hoping its second-leading scorer will avoid having to sit out this one as well.
Harris is hoping to avoid a suspension after his ejection from a 110-96 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday for a Grade 2 flagrant foul against Blake Griffin.
Griffin was about to go up for a dunk when Harris reached over Griffin’s shoulders with both hands and yanked him to the floor from behind.
“That was a tough call,” coach Avery Johnson said. “Devin wasn’t trying to injure the guy. He definitely wasn’t trying to commit a flagrant foul. We just don’t like to give layups. Hopefully we’ll just get past that situation and have him back for the next game.”
Despite missing Harris, who is averaging 17.8 points and 6.8 assists, the Nets held on after nearly blowing a 14-point lead. The Clippers pulled within three in the fourth quarter, but Brook Lopez scored six of his 24 points in the final eight minutes.
The Nets snapped a 23-game road losing streak against teams from the Western Conference, and they topped 100 points for the first time in eight games.
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