Buzz City, meet basketball’s buzzsaw.
The Utah Jazz rolled into Charlotte and took care of the Hornets on Friday night, a 138-121 road victory for the current No. 1 team in the NBA. The Jazz (18-5) have now won three straight games and 14 of their last 15.
The Jazz did it in a familiar fashion: pushing the pace, pressuring the rim, and then burying the Hornets under the weight of a franchise-record 26 3-pointers. The Jazz shot 52 percent from deep, and eight different players knocked down at least one shot from downtown.
Bojan Bogdanovic scored a game-high 31 points (7-of-10 from beyond the arc) and Donovan Mitchell scored 30 (5-of-9 from deep).
“We are playing great team basketball,” Bogdanovic said after. “Let’s keep going.”
Utah struggled to find its offensive groove early. Charlotte started a small lineup, switching on everything defensively. Hornets guard Terry Rozier hit a 3 to put Charlotte up 11-2 in the game’s early minutes. A Gordon Hayward 3 made it 19-9 midway through the first. The former Jazzman had nine points in that run.
But the Jazz regrouped and settled in. Behind eight first-quarter points from Gobert, withstood that early push and trailed just 32-30 by the end of the quarter. By halftime, after burying a dozen 3-pointers, the Jazz led by 15.
“They started three point guards, so they kind of surprised us with all that switching,” Bogdanovic said. “We figured it out. Our second unit did a great job and they made a run.”
The Jazz bench combined for 40 points, 27 of them in the first half of Friday’s game.
Five quick points off the hand of Georges Niang put the Jazz up 37-32 in the first minutes of the second. Sixth man Jordan Clarkson followed that with three of his 15 points.
So when Conley drained a 3 of his own just 4 minutes into the second, the Jazz had flipped the script and led 46-35. Mitchell was held scoreless in the first quarter but had 10 points in the second after hitting a pair of tough 3s and dicing up the Charlotte defense on his way to the rim for a pair of buckets.
It was Jazz 69, Hornets 54 at the break.
Hayward had 14 more points in the third quarter, but he was matched by Bogdanovic, who went 4-for-4 from behind the arc in the quarter.
Jazz point guard Mike Conley played 5 minutes in the third quarter before coming out and making his way to the training room with tightness in his right hamstring. With Conley out and Mitchell on the bench with five fouls, the Hornets made one final push in the fourth quarter. An 11-3 run in the fourth cut the lead to single-digits. Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball scored 15 of his game-high 34 points in the fourth.
“He’s good. I’m not going to lie,” Mitchell said of the No. 3 overall pick. “I’m very impressed. His playmaking ability, his competitiveness and his joy. I don’t think I saw him not smile throughout the entire game. … He’s just enjoying that he’s here and he’s very talented. I didn’t really know what to expect, but he’s the real deal.”
While the Jazz withstood Charlotte’s late run, it served as a lesson for Mitchell and company.
“That has to stop,” Mitchell said of letting Charlotte back into the game. “The team we want to be ultimately doesn’t let a team back and make it a nine-point game.”
Joe Ingles — who had 10 points, 11 assists and hit the record-breaking 3-pointer late in the game — echoed that sentiment.
“We can’t really let that happen,” Ingles said. “But we’ll take the win and learn from it and we’ll move on to the next one.”
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) February 6, 2021
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) February 6, 2021
In the summer of 2014, Gordon Hayward signed an offer sheet with Charlotte. Six and a half years later, the former Jazzman has found a home there.
Hayward is leading the Hornets with 22.9 points per game this season after signing as a free agent.
The forward left Utah for Boston in 2017, but Jazz head coach Quin Snyder remains a fan of his game.
“It’s no secret how I feel about Gordon, the type of player he is,” Snyder said. “He’s one of the top players in the league. He’s showing that in this situation right here.”
After breaking his ankle in the 2017-18 opener and missing the rest of the season, Hayward returned to a Celtics squad featuring bourgeoning stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown at forward. In Charlotte, Hayward’s place in the team is well defined.
“You can’t underestimate what it’s like to go through an injury like the one he did and then to come back and try to find your role,” Snyder said. “The clarity he has, that [Borrego] has provided him, you can see his comfort level. When he’s comfortable … that’s when you see his ability to make plays, score and do a lot of things on the court.
“He’s worked hard to get where he is and, like I said, I think he’s one of the best players in the league.”
Hayward’s new coach, meanwhile, has quickly grown fond of the things he has brought to Carolina.
“He’s brought us a fourth-quarter closer,” Borrego said. “He has that poise, that ability to get his own shot. … He’s been more of a matchup problem than I expected probably for teams in general.”
Hayward is also averaging 3.9 assists per game.
“The biggest thing is he’s been a gem as a playmaker,” Borrego said. “He’s got the size. We needed someone with size that could play-make. His playmaking is the best thing he does. He loves to share the ball.”
Ready for some basketball with your Sunday brunch? We’re off to Indy for a Sunday matinee matchup against the Pacers. Tipoff is scheduled for 11 a.m.