Utah Jazz lack urgency until it matters in win over Hornets

Utah Jazz lack urgency until it matters in win over Hornets

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz fell behind by seven points to begin Saturday’s game, and it looked like they might be in trouble.

The Jazz, after taking and then losing the lead, trailed by 10 in the fourth quarter, and it looked even worse.

Turns out, they were just getting warmed up.

Utah clamped down on defense in the final eight minutes and made a late, dizzying 17-point turnaround en route to a 105-98 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.

“When it was time to buckle down and for us to get the stops, we were able to do that, so kudos to us,” 16-year veteran Joe Johnson said. “We’ve got to come better prepared and better focused from the start.”

Although it made for a pretty darn entertaining game of basketball, the drastic shifts in momentum drove their coach crazy.

In his postgame comments, Quin Snyder pointed out that the Jazz’s urgency is a bit out of kilter at times. The sense of urgency and communication are lacking for stretches — until it really matters.

You can get away with that sometimes — like a student who waits until the night before final exams to begin studying — but it’s not a productive habit.

“I think it’s really a question, on some level, of our urgency,” Snyder said. “You see it with communication or that there’s an urgency that we had when we got behind. You get to a point where we’re not playing well for a while and then it kicks in and the level raises. We’ve got to do a better job of maintaining that or reaching that or at least approaching that during the guts of the game not just at the end.”

It worked out against a struggling Charlotte team, which has lost seven in a row.

It might not work against Atlanta, New Orleans and/or Dallas on the upcoming road trip.

“You can look at it one way and say we gave up 38 points in the third quarter or you can say we gave up 16 in the fourth,” Snyder said, pointing out the discrepancy in play. “The fact that there’s such a disparity to me points to just (lapses in) focus and mental concentration.”

The stellar play of All-Star Gordon Hayward (season-high 33 points, eight rebounds), George Hill (25 points) and Joe Johnson (18 points, plus-20) helped save the day for this Jazz team, which has won nine of 12 games. Utah (32-19) is now up a half-game on the Clippers (31-19) for the fourth spot in the Western Conference.

Hayward credited the play of Johnson and Hill for making it easier on him.

Both Johnson and Hill made key plays down the stretch too, including the game-tying 3-pointer by Hill with 2:54 remaining and a go-ahead floater by Johnson that made it 98-96 with 2:22 remaining.

“Defenses can’t just focus on and they were both terrific tonight. Joe, specifically, the past two games has been a playmaker for us with the ability to get in the paint and hold guys off and let the play develop and hit the corners, hit Rudy (Gobert), hit his little floater too. He’s really tough to guard.”

The Jazz improved to 11-0 when Hill scores at least 20 points and to 17-4 when Hayward and Hill play together this season.

“George had 25 on 11 shots (8 of 11). That’s almost as efficient as you can be,” Hayward said. “It seemed like every one of them was a dagger for us. We needed both of those guys.”

The Jazz also got a nice boost from backup point guard Dante Exum, especially early on. Exum sparked a first-half comeback by making a pretty drive and a 3-point shot on back-to-back possessions to end the first quarter, cutting the Hornets’ 10-point lead to five.

Utah continued its surge in the second quarter, taking a 52-44 halftime lead after outscoring the Hornets 29-16 in that period.

The pendulum swung the other way, though, as Charlotte outscored the Jazz 38-21 in the third quarter.

Continuing that trend, Utah clinched the victory by winning the fourth quarter 32-16.

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“It’s a big win for us,” Exum said after finishing with 11 points and three assists. “We were down, I think 10 or so, and just to come back and fight gives us a lot of momentum going on the road.”

Kemba Walker led Charlotte (23-28) with 18 points, moving him up to No. 2 on the franchise’s all-time scoring list ahead of George Wallace (7,448 to 7,437).

“We did a good job for 40 minutes. We fought. We had a great start,” Charlotte guard Nicolas Batum said. “They came back. We had a great third quarter. We did a good job, but we didn’t finish the game.”

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Published at Sun, 05 Feb 2017 06:18:00 +0000