Brooklyn Nets crumble in the fourth at Gordon Hayward's hands
Jan 2, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Trevor Booker (35) scores a basket during the first quarter against Utah Jazz at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

It was Joe Johnson‘s return to the Barclays Center, but Gordon Hayward was the one who stood out in the Brooklyn Nets loss. 

We’ve seen this narrative before. In fact, I’m sure I’ve said the same thing numerous times because it’s become so routine. More often than not, the Nets can hang with the league’s better teams for most of the game.

The problem is that they always come apart in the second half. Utah is one of the most overlooked teams in the league, and Quin Snyder has done an excellent job coaching this team. With Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood and a host of other great role players, they hold a 22-13 on the year and hold sole possession of the fourth seed in the West.

For the length of the first half, Brooklyn was doing everything they needed to win; grabbing all the 50-50 balls, playing defense with fervor and intensity and they were executing on offense. By the intermission, the Nets’ grittiness willed them to a 52-50 lead.

They weren’t exactly lackadaisical coming out of the locker room, but something looked off. For one, the Jazz looked like a better team, and Hayward began to get hot. What changed immediately was Utah’s utilization of Hayward, and he was the primary ball handler for most of the third.

After going into Monday’s game averaging 22.1 points, Hayward dropped 30 — 13 in the third — on a Nets team that couldn’t guard him. Bojan Bogdanovic was his primary defender for a decent part of the game. It didn’t go well.

Once Kenny Atkinson noted the mismatch on his small forward, several defenders attempted to check Hayward, but the Jazz involved him in more high screen-and-rolls and looked for him to create off the dribble. That went very well.

Rodney Hood nailed a couple of big-time shots, giving the Jazz just enough to separate toward the end of the game.

For Brooklyn, it was very uncharacteristic to see their offense disappear as horrendously as it did. Trevor Booker‘s 17 points and unrelenting effort rectified most of their struggles, but the Nets won’t win many games if he’s their leading scorer.

Brook Lopez‘s off night was expected since Gobert was his primary foe, but he finished with just 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting and staggeringly bad plus/minus of -15.

Sean Kilpatrick couldn’t get into a rhythm either, and the Nets’ go-to guy late in games finished with just eight points on two made shots.

Oddly enough, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson put together a fine evening, but Kenny Atkinson elected not to play him as much as he should’ve. Especially down the stretch. Hollis-Jefferson totaled just 14 minutes on the night but finished with 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting.

Moreover, he could’ve been someone who matched up across from Hayward without there being a clear-cut advantage for the former Butler Bulldog.

Instead, the Jazz shot 63.6 percent from the field in the fourth, including 13-of-17 on two-point attempts.

The Nets don’t play again until Thursday, Jan. 5 when they take on the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

I'm obsessed with basketball. I play (my hesi pull-up Jimbo is cash), I write and cover the Nets here at ESNY. My work has been seen on Bleacher Report, Sports Illustrated and FanSided. I also run my company, TBN Media. My favorite NBA player is Isaiah Thomas because I can look him in the eye.