The NBA-leading Utah Jazz have routed the short-handed Brooklyn Nets as the promising battle between the Eastern and Western Conference contenders turned into a fizzer.
Donovan Mitchell scored 27 points as the Jazz easily defeated the Nets 118-88 on Wednesday.
Bojan Bogdanovic, who was mired in a three-for-25 shooting slump from 3-point range, made 4 of 6 3-point attempts and scored 18 for the Jazz, who have won four of five.
The matchup lost some lustre when the Nets’ James Harden was scratched due to a sore neck. He joined teammates Kevin Durant (left hamstring strain) and Kyrie Irving (personal reasons) on the injured list.
Alize Johnson, who was signed to a 10-day contract on Monday, had a career-high 23 points and 15 rebounds. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot added 12 for Brooklyn.
Mitchell made five 3-pointers in three quarters of action. He has increased his efficiency of late, averaging 32.5 points over his last four games.
The Jazz played at home for the first time this month. They had slipped from the hottest team in the NBA to one struggling to score and defend.
Utah, who have the best record in the NBA at 32-11, remained stingy on defence while firing 3-pointers from every angle. The Jazz made 23 of 55 from beyond the arc against Brooklyn’s slow defensive rotations.
Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard was booed throughout in his return to San Antonio but it didn’t prevent him from posting 25 points for the Los Angeles Clippers who led throughout to beat the Spurs 134-101.
Marcus Morris added 20 points, Paul George had 17 points and Lou Williams 16 while DeMar DeRozan responded for the hosts with 19 points with Australian Patty Mills posting 16.
The teams meet again on Thursday in the finale of the two-game set in San Antonio.
The Clippers won their third straight and 11th by 20 points or more this season.
Los Angeles remained third in the West and San Antonio dropped to eighth. After winning four of five, the Spurs have lost the first two of a nine-game homestand.
Spurs fans have still have not forgotten or forgiven Leonard for his trade demand and subsequent departure to Toronto following his injury-riddled 2018 season.
Leonard was booed during pre-game introductions and subsequently each time he touched the ball. The jeers were not as loud as Leonard’s three previous visits to the AT&T Centre and waned as the game progressed as the Spurs and Leonard gave them little to root for.
Not that it mattered to the ever-stoic Leonard.
Leonard finished nine-for-12 shooting, making both of his 3-point attempts and all five of his free throws. He also had seven rebounds, five steals and three assists in 32 minutes.