Jazz Hitting Hot Streak Despite January Doldrums

Jan 23, 2023, 10:43 PM | Updated: Jan 24, 2023, 12:38 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz beat up on a sluggish and shorthanded Charlotte Hornets team 120-102 Monday night.

Lauri Markkanen scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Jazz, while Charlotte was led by Terry Rozier with 23.

Charlotte was playing without both LaMelo Ball and Kelly Oubre in the loss, snapping their two-game winning streak with the loss.

The Dog Days Of Basketball Are Here

The Jazz deserve credit for holding the Hornets to a season-worst shooting night as they ran Charlotte off the three-point from the opening tip.

But even though the Hornets are the league’s worst three-point shooting team connecting on just 33 percent of their attempts for the season, 2-16 is a strikingly poor performance by modern standards.

The last team to shoot 2-16 from the three-point line a game was the Chicago Bulls on March 23, 2019, coincidentally, against the Jazz.

While the Jazz will gladly take the win, even coach Will Hardy admitted the number was an outlier.

“We only ended up giving up 16 three-point attempts. Obviously, they’re a better shooting team than 2-16, but when the margin is that big in attempts, I like our chances,” Hardy said.

The Jazz on the other hand shot 16-40 for the game, including hoisting an impressive 29 attempts in the first half, leading to the easy win. Five separate Jazz players had at least as many made threes individually as the Hornets team did as a whole.

“We did a good job with our switching to take away a lot of those off-the-dribble threes and then did a good job for the most part of containing the ball and recognizing when to help and when to fan back out to the shooter,” Hardy said.

Another issue contributing to the Hornets’ poor shooting night was the mid-season fatigue that traditionally sets in across the league with the All-Star break closing in.

“I think the weirdest part of the season is about right now,” Mike Conley admitted. “With the trade deadline — we’ve played a lot of games, guys are either looking forward to a break or getting ready whatever plans are being made.”

The trade deadline is approaching on February 9, while the All-Star break runs from February 17-22.

“Your mind can get a little bit jumbled right now, and your body’s already worn down a little bit this time of the year anyway,” Conley said, “so the combination of that kind of adds up.”

Considering the Jazz are neck deep in trade rumors leading up to the deadline, they deserve credit for winning five of their last seven games and remain firmly in the Western Conference playoff race.

After Monday’s win, the Jazz sit at 25-25 on the season, a half-game behind the sixth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers, and 1.5 games ahead of the 12th-seeded Los Angeles Lakers.

Walker Kessler’s Defensive Spacing

Late in the Jazz loss to the Nets on Friday, Walker Kessler made two critical errors, failing to close the space between himself and Kyrie Irving, resulting in two dagger threes that essentially ended the game.

Irving is, admittedly, one of the most talented offensive players in the NBA, and when he’s shooting the way he did against the Jazz (18-29 FG, 8-15 3pt) he’s nearly unguardable.

Yet, there was room for improvement against the Nets, as evidenced by the earful Kessler got from Hardy as he walked off the floor.

Prior to the game with the Hornets, I asked Hardy what Kessler needs to do to improve in the future, and how that changes with a player like Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball.

“Those pull-up threes at the end, that was just such a good learning moment for Walker to have. Number one, Kyrie has 40 points or 43 when he hit the last one. Number two, if you want to play at the end of a game, you have to be able to adjust to a different coverage because sometimes we can’t just let you sit back and drop.”

As Kessler looks more and more like a fixture in both the starting and closing lineups, his ability to make the right read in a chaotic environment without the aid of a timeout, or audible instruction from his coaches will be critical.

“Walker is somebody going forward that we see playing heavy minutes as a part of this team and somebody that we want to have on the court in a lot of moments to close the game,” Hardy added. “But with that comes the responsibility of being able to do a couple of different things defensively, and there’s going to be some growing pains with that.”

Kessler finished with 13 points and nine rebounds for the Jazz against Charlotte.

Jazz Next Broadcast

The Utah Jazz and the Trail Blazers will tip off at 8 pm MT on Wednesday in Portland. The game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. It can also be streamed on DirecTV Stream and FuboTV.

Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Jazz Hitting Hot Streak Despite January Doldrums