Maaaan, I don’t know about this latest Utah Jazz (32-19) game, where they came from behind at home to defeat the struggling Charlotte Hornets (23-28) by the final score of 105-98. This game was . . . bad? Awful? Frustrating? Whatever it was, the end results - a win that now places the Jazz 0.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers and in soul possession of fourth place in the Western Conference standings - usually aren’t things to be upset about. There are some holes to this Jazz team though. And the Hornets weren’t even supposed to be in this one. At all.
In fact, you could argue that the starting group of George Hill, Joe Ingles, Gordon Hayward, Boris Diaw, and Rudy Gobert had a swarm of problems with their opponents — even on a night where Kemba Walker is held to just 2 first half points. Charlotte jumped out to leads in the first quarter of 7-0, 12-3, 24-13, and 28-20 putting them in complete control if not for the spirited play of Dante Exum (who hit a three with 0:01 seconds to play).
The Jazz clawed back by tooth and nail and Joe Johnson to tie the game, and even take the lead midway through the second. Order was settled by Gordon Hayward to lose out the half as the good guys ran up their lead to 55-44 after 24 minutes.
So game over, right? Kemba Walker has 2 points. It’s the end of a road trip for the Hornets. They are injured. Guys who are playing are playing hurt. They just traded away two bigmen. They are playing a well rested, tough, Western Conference team? Altitude?
Nope. Kemba Walker caught fire in the third quarter, joining guys who were on fire all game long (Marvin Williams, Frank Kaminsky III, and Marco Belinelli) to give Utah mucho problemos. Those four guys would finish the game with 12 of the Hornets 13 threes — and they were making all kinds of crazy shots.
Charlotte carried the third 38-21. Seriously. Nearly 40 points to these bugs? In a quarter? They barely scored 40 in the first half? These bugs who were dead at halftime? Thankfully Gordon Hayward and pals (George Hill and Joe Johnson) decided that they would refuse to lose tonight.
Utah dug deep and took care of business REEEEEEAAAALLLY late in this one. Hill hit shots. Johnson hit shots. Hayward hit shots. Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert played defense. And Dante Exum looked alive but still didn’t play that much.
And really? Thank you to Cody Zeller for being injured. His injury meant that both teams were going to go small, and the Jazz really needed that extra fire power to finish this game.
Both teams would finish 13/33 from deep (39.4%) but while Charlotte made their threes in the first three quarters it seems like Utah made all of theirs in the fourth. Utah also got Charlotte in the penalty early in the fourth as well, which helped out in evening the FT situation (where Utah would eventually take the lead with 24 FTA to 18).
Hayward, Hill, and Johnson would go 11/19 from three. And that was precisely the firepower needed to finish a game from behind. IN other games we’ve seen Utah not play with urgency, and try to get back into games by working the all for 20 seconds and a two point shot. This was a different attack tonight, one that got the win.
Of course, it’s one that let the other team take big leads at important junctures. This was also another game where very little was achieved by Derrick Favors, Boris Diaw, and Trey Lyles. Also, Joe Ingles and Alec Burks shot a combined 2/15 tonight, with 1/9 shooting from three.
The turn overs were low, and the Jazz dominated the glass against a team that is usually GREAT on their defensive glass (Jazz had 11 offensive rebounds). Rudy didn’t get the double double, but finished wiht 8 points, 15 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks. But again, this game is a loss without Hayward’s 33, Hill’s 25, and Johnson’s 18.
The Jazz won. That’s great. But this was a spotlight game on how to hurt the Jazz with a fast point guard and a bunch of stretch bigs.
Utah finishes 3-1 on their season long four-game home stand. They head out on the road next week for games @ Atlanta Hawks (Mon), @ New Orleans Pelicans (Wed), and @ Dallas Mavericks before returning to Utah for a home game against the Boston Celtics (Sat).