Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons, left, guards against Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 48 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter for a second straight night, to lead the Brooklyn Nets to a 117-106 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday.
Brooklyn won for the first time since Kevin Durant’s knee injury behind Irving’s memorable finish. He shot 70% from the field in the fourth quarter and made four 3-pointers. Irving fell two points shy of matching Utah’s fourth-quarter point total.
He accounted for 18 of the Nets’ 43 baskets by himself – including a season-high eight 3-pointers.
“He’s just in a different world,” Nets center Nic Claxton said. “He’s locked in. He’s in a different type of zone and he makes those big shots time and time again.”
Irving also had a season-high 11 rebounds and six assists, leading Brooklyn in both categories. And he also took a couple of early charges.
“I put my body on the line and lead by example,” Irving said. “When I can get it going on the defensive end and do the little things, it really makes a difference for me and I’m dialed in.”
Claxton added 20 points and four blocks. Royce O’Neale chipped in 13 points and six assists in his first game back in Utah since being traded to Brooklyn before the season.
Jordan Clarkson scored 29 points for Utah and Lauri Markkanen added 22 points and 11 rebounds. Collin Sexton had 17 points and Malik Beasley chipped in 12.
The Jazz struggled with transition defense down the stretch, giving up 19 fast-break points after halftime.
“In the second half, we just weren’t very focused on getting back and protecting the basket,” Utah coach Will Hardy said. “We got a little bit wrapped up in trying to focus on the ball, and we let guys get behind us.”
After Clarkson capped a 10-3 run with a driving layup to tie it at 102, Irving and Seth Curry each knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to help the Nets take a 114-105 lead with 50 seconds left.
A night after losing in Phoenix to fall to 0-4 without Durant, Brooklyn carved out a 24-11 lead after holding the Jazz scoreless for four minutes. The Nets ran off 14 unanswered points during that stretch, highlighted by three baskets from Irving. They started 11 of 16 from the field before their offense cooled off.
“I thought you saw from him throughout the course of the night different segments of the game where he really put his imprint on what we were trying to do offensively,” Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn said. “It paid dividends, especially in the fourth quarter.”
Utah erased the double-digit deficit in the second quarter behind its own 14-0 run and took a 38-36 lead on a reverse layup from Sexton. The Jazz scored on seven straight possessions late in the quarter. Clarkson fueled the spurt with a pair of baskets and three free throws.
Even though Utah hung with Brooklyn until late in the fourth quarter, the Jazz never really felt comfortable on offense against the Nets’ physical defense.
“They were aggressive, switching 1 through 5,” Clarkson said. “I don’t think anybody has played us quite like that.”
O’Neale made the most of his return to Utah.
The Nets forward knocked three 3-pointers in the first quarter to give his team an early spark. He came out strong again in the third quarter, tallying four points, three rebounds, and five assists while going the full 12 minutes.
His contributions reflected a collective aggressiveness from the Nets on both ends.
“Us locking in from the beginning, it set the tone early,” O’Neale said.
Nets: Ben Simmons had six of his nine rebounds in the fourth quarter. … Brooklyn did not attempt a free throw until 4:02 remained in the second quarter.
Jazz: Mike Conley dished out a game-high nine assists. … Utah outscored Brooklyn 32-21 in bench points.
Nets: Visit Golden State on Sunday.
Jazz: Host Charlotte on Monday.