Hornets Respond Well After Slow Start, Jazz Prevail for Win

Charlotte Rallies From 22-PT Deficit, But Can’t Finish Off Comeback in Utah
by Sam Perley

More Coverage: Game Gallery | James Borrego Postgame

Getting off to strong starts has been a major challenge for the Hornets throughout their ongoing road trip and Monday night’s outing in Salt Lake City was unfortunately no different. But unlike in some of its previous appearances, Charlotte righted itself fairly quickly and pushed the Utah Jazz all the way deep into the fourth quarter before falling 112-102.

The Hornets shot just 21% in the opening frame as the hometown Jazz raced out to a 22-point first-half lead before the visitors’ offense picked up enough to cut the deficit down to 13 by the break. Later in the second half, Charlotte rolled off a 20-2 run to take a 92-91 lead with 3:30 remaining, but Utah responded with a 15-3 stretch of its own and never looked back.

“I thought we were trying in the first quarter,” said Hornets Head Coach James Borrego afterwards. “We got good shots again. It was a microcosm of last night [in Phoenix] where shots were not falling. Tonight, we stuck with it. Won the second quarter, won the third quarter, won the fourth quarter. Had a one-point lead and kept battling. We showed resiliency and fight. We have to get off to better starts and we understand that and own it.”

LaMelo Ball (21 points and 11 assists) and Miles Bridges (21 points and 11 rebounds) both double-doubled in the losing effort, while Terry Rozier added 20 points, 14 of which came in the fourth quarter. Rudy Gobert led Utah with 23 points, a season-high-tying 21 rebounds and also knocked down a career-high 15 free throws on 16 attempts.

Neither team shot particularly well – Charlotte went 39% from the field, Utah was at 35%. The Jazz crushed the rebounding battle though, 68-51 (22-11 in offensive boards) and connected on 28-of-37 free-throws, good for new season highs in both takes and makes from the charity stripe (Hornets were 9-of-9 at the line).

“[The rebounding disparity] was big,” added Borrego. “It gave them second-chance opportunities. They got some free throws out of it. It’s an area we’re trying to clean up and focus on. It’s just going to take five guys battling. Gobert is a big guy, [Hassan] Whiteside is a big guy. We just have to go in there and dig them out.”

It hasn’t been the best of road trips for Charlotte, which is now just 1-4 on its current expedition into the Western Conference. But while the result wasn’t what the Hornets were looking for in Salt Lake City – where the Jazz have now won 15 consecutive head-to-head meetings dating back to March of 2006 – they did make some small steps in the right direction.

“Tonight, my guess is I’m going to go back and I’m going to see some good shots [in the first quarter],” said Borrego. “We just have to knock them down and play with confidence. We found our confidence as the game went along, but we have to start with that same mentality. I want that same spirit [in] that second, third, fourth quarter, that battle. We have to take that spirit into the first quarter in Denver. We need that to carry over.”

As mentioned, the Hornets will now have two full days off before closing out their six-game road trip against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday, Dec. 23 beginning at 9 PM ET.

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