Markkanen, Sexton Lift Jazz Over Hornets

Jan 27, 2024, 8:48 PM | Updated: Jan 29, 2024, 5:30 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz survived a difficult second half and downed the Charlotte Hornets 134-122.

The Jazz led 82-47 at halftime before they were outscored 75-52 in the second half and outlasted the Hornets on the road.

With the win the Jazz moved to 24-23 on the season.

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Is This Collin Sexton’s Reality?

For the 19th time in the last 25 games, Collin Sexton scored at least 20 points for the Jazz.

Against the Hornets, he poured in 24 points on 9-19 shooting, including 3-7 from downtown.

While Sexton’s scoring has garnered significant attention over the last month and a half, he’s also made strides as a playmaker, quietly shedding his reputation as a high-scoring guard who doesn’t help his team win games.

That distinction was made clear in Charlotte when Sexton recorded a career-high 13 assists against just three turnovers.

After failing to record double-digit assists over the first 84 games of his Jazz career, he’s now done it twice in the last 11 games.

For the season Sexton is averaging 4.3 assists per game, the second-highest number of his career. But over the last 25 games that number jumps to 5.2 assists per contest, nearly a full assist above his career-high during the 2020-21 season.

Over that 25-game stretch, Sexton is averaging 22.0 points and 5.2 assists while shooting 51 percent from the floor and 41 percent from three.

He’s just the second player in Jazz history to average at least 20 points and five assists while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three, joining Deron Williams who did over three separate stretches.

However, Williams never did it in fewer than 37 minutes per game, while Sexton has averaged fewer than 28 minutes during his recent run.

Earlier this month, Jazz coach Will Hardy admitted he had to shift his perspective on Sexton, recognizing he had to ditch his old biases toward the guard from his days in Cleveland.

“I needed to take Collin at face value and just go ‘Hey, whatever happened before he got to Utah means nothing to me,’” Hardy said. “How has he been with me every day? How has he been with our team every day? And he’s always done everything that I’ve asked.”

While Hardy had to adjust his understanding of Sexton’s game in Utah, it may be time for those who follow the Jazz to recognize that Sexton has evolved into a franchise-level point guard for the team, and is playing like a borderline All-Star.

Will Hardy Points Out Defensive Flaws

After their record-setting 82-point first half, the Jazz had a significant letdown against the Hornets over the final 24 minutes.

Charlotte scored 72 points on 64 percent shooting from the floor including 53 percent from three, and racked up a 22-2 advantage in fastbreak points.

PJ Washington matched a career-high 43 points, 31 of which came in the second half.

“We did a horrible job of recognizing PJ Washington and running him off the line,” Hardy said.

While the Jazz have leaned heavily into their zone defense over the last two months, they were slow to pick up Washington in the halfcourt, leaving him with wide-open three-point opportunities throughout the second half.

“If we were playing a pickup game and I hit three threes in a row, you would probably guard me differently on the fourth one,” Hardy said.

The Jazz also gave up 13 dunks to the Hornets, part of their super-efficient second-half run.

“the recognition of the players in the back [of the zone] was atrocious tonight,” Hardy added, “something we got to keep working on.”

The Jazz are currently in the midst of a franchise-best 11 straight games of scoring 120 points or more.

They own the best offensive rating in the league during the span, but are ranked just 17th defensively.

While teams like Charlotte will allow them to win games with a 120.8 defensive rating, they won’t be so fortunate most nights in the NBA.

Nightly Awards: Jazz vs. Hornets

The “Quietest Monster in the NBA” Award: 

Goes to Lauri Markkanen who continues to have some of the league’s best individual performances and does so to very little almost no hubris.

Against the Hornets, Markkanen became the first player in Jazz history to record a 30-point, 10-rebound night with at least seven made threes.

He’s only the fifth player in the NBA to do it this season joining Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, Scottie Barnes, and Michael Porter Jr.

All-Star reserves will be named on February 1.

Utah Jazz’s Next Broadcast

The Jazz will face the Nets on Monday at 5:30 pm MST in Brooklyn. The game will be televised on KJZZ, streamed on Jazz+, and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone.

Are you on Threads yet? Let’s connect, give us a follow @kslsports

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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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Markkanen, Sexton Lift Jazz Over Hornets