NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The ‘Melo-drama’ ended and so did the New Jersey Nets’ losing streak.
Hours after owner Mikhail Prokhorov halted the Nets’ drawn-out pursuit of Carmelo Anthony and quelled fears that half the team would be traded, New Jersey matched its season high with seven players scoring in double figures in a 103-95 victory over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.
“I’m relieved it’s over,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. “I’m relieved for our players, but I’m more relieved for (general manager) Billy (King). We can now just move on. We’ll keep developing the players we have and keep improving. I liked what we did tonight. There was positive energy and no panic when they started to come back. For the first time in a long time, we closed a team out.”
Brook Lopez scored 11 of his 20 points in a big third quarter, Sasha Vujacic added 15 and Devin Harris had 14 points and eight assists to help New Jersey win for only the second time in 13 games.
Travis Outlaw had 13 points and rookie forward Derrick Favors, the No. 3 pick in the draft who was mentioned prominently in the trade talks along with Harris, added 12 points and six rebounds.
Harris said the game was the Nets’ best in a long time.
“We’re going to have less distractions now and just puts our minds at ease,” Harris said. “We can move forward and hopefully have more wins like this. We weren’t exactly walking on egg shells, but with everyone talking about it, asking about it and writing about it, well, it does get annoying. It was a tough situation for all of us.”
While the Nets were relaxing after the game, the Jazz were concerned after consecutive losses to Washington and New Jersey, two of the worst teams in the NBA.
“We look like we were lacking effort and our energy doesn’t look good to me, even more so in the last couple of games,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. “Just doesn’t seem like great enthusiasm to play. I think we’re better than we played, but give the Nets credit.”
Al Jefferson had 21 points and eight rebounds and Deron Williams added 20 points and 10 assists for Utah.
The Nets seemingly took command in the third quarter with a 21-7 spurt that featured seven points by Lopez and six by Outlaw. A 3-pointer by Jordan Farmar, the fourth long-range shot in the run, stretched the lead to 71-57 late in the quarter.
Utah, which has rallied from a dozen double-digit deficits to win games this season, made a fourth-quarter run against the Nets, closing within 93-91 on a three-point play by Jefferson with 1:52 to play.
Lopez answered with a layup off Harris’ feed at the 1:40 mark and Vujacic eventually stretched the margin to 97-91 with a layup with 30 seconds to go.
New Jersey iced the game at the free throw line.
“It’s just another bad loss,” Williams said. “What else can I say?”
The result was secondary to the pre-game drama.
After months of talks aimed at bringing Anthony from Denver to New Jersey, Prokhorov announced that the Nets were ending their prolonged trade talks with the Nuggets.
Prokhorov said the deal had become too public, taken too long and had hurt his team, so he pulled the plug on the proposed deal that featured as many as 15 players.
“Really, I am not happy with the way the deal has gone until now,” said Prokhorov, who fielded questions in English and Russian. “It has taken too long. It has been played out in public. The uncertainty has taken a toll on the players … and I believe it has cost us several games.”
NOTES: Ravens running back Ray Rice, TV reality star Kim Kardashian and rap mogul Jay-Z were at the game. … This was an evening of Russian culture, and NHL hockey players Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Ovechkin and Varlamov Semen, Olympic gold medalist Kenny Krayzelburg (swimming) and Viktor Petrenko (figure skating) were on hand. … Nets G Anthony Morrow, who has been sidelined since mid-December, expects to play Friday against Detroit.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)