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Jazz’s backcourt shines in win over Brooklyn Nets

In what feels like the first time this season, Sexton and THT both thrive in Utah win

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Utah Jazz Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz beat the Brooklyn Nets 125-108 at home in one of their most complete performances of the season. Here are a few thoughts on the game:

The backcourt performance

For the first time this season, it finally felt like both Collin Sexton and Talon Horton-Tucker played well as a pair. Starting tonight in place of the injured Jordan Clarkson and Keyonte George, the two guards had their most efficient combined performance this season. Given Utah’s well-chronicled struggles with the guard positions this season, this was a breath of fresh air. For Utah coach Will Hardy, it appears he feels the same.

“It's great when guys play the way you envision them playing,” Hardy said after the game.

For Sexton, the vision might include him playing as a starter. While only shooting 6-17 from the field, Sexton scored 27 points, took 13 free throws, and dished out six assists. It's clear that Sexton plays his most natural basketball as a starting two-guard in the NBA. He’s averaged 27 points a game as a starter, and it begs the question of if he’s earned that spot over Jordan Clarkson moving forward. Across 19 games, Clarkson has had the most inefficient season of his career, shooting under 40% from the field and under 30% from three. With reports that Clarkson may be available in the trade market, the space for Sexton to start could come sooner than later.

Horton-Tucker, who has struggled for large stretches of the season, gave his most controlled performance of the season. He logged 27 points, six assists, and three rebounds on 11-19 shooting with only one turnover. While Horton-Tucker has struggled with shot selection this season (tonight included, albeit more went in than missed), a larger share of them came through the natural flow of the offense rather than through isolation. Horton-Tucker plays best moving downhill off the catch or off a screen, and tonight he operated well in those situations. His lone turnover is an encouraging sign of his development.

Utah plays good defense?

The Jazz chose to bring John Collins off the bench tonight. Part of that is probably because Collin’s has come off of an illness and has missed four games. But I also think Utah’s coaching staff looked at this as an opportunity to try a new rotation in the front court. The logic with bringing Collins off the bench is clear: he’s better on both ends of the floor as a 5 rather than a 4. Kessler also benefits from this move, as starting Fontecchio over Collins means that 4/5 players on the court can theoretically dribble, pass, and shoot, unclogging the paint. Will Hardy appears to know that too.

“John is more conformable as a five,” Hardy said post-game. “It probably took Walker being out for us to play John at the five a lot and see how he looked over a bigger window of time. John is really effective as a five.”

How were the results? Pretty good actually! The Nets average 116.3 points per game this season, and Utah was able to hold them well below that at 108. They typically average 48.0 points in the paint per game, and Utah was able to hold them to 38. Kessler, for his part, had 14 rebounds and five blocks. While Cam Thomas scored 32 points, the Jazz were able to hold anyone on the Nets below 20. For a team that has ranked as almost the worst defensive team in the league, that's great!

Next up the Jazz take on Donovan Mitchell and the Cavaliers on Wednesday at 5 p.m. MT.