Just when you think the Jazz are dead in the water, they come back again.
After a difficult four-game losing streak in which Utah dropped to 13th in the standings, the Jazz have reeled off back-to-back wins following their 119-111 victory over Charlotte on Saturday night. They've now climbed back to the 10th seed and in the Play-In Tournament.
"Winning in this league is hard, winning on the road is hard," head coach Will Hardy said postgame. "Our guys really competed for the entire 48 minutes. They (Charlotte) made a run to cut it, but our guys stayed the course, responded, and made some big plays down the stretch."
Here are five things to know following the win:
1.) THT Was Special
There are very few words to describe just how good Talen Horton-Tucker was on Saturday night.
On a night when Utah's best player (Lauri Markkanen) had one of his worst shooting performances of the season, Horton-Tucker picked the perfect time for the best game of his Jazz career.
After a sensational first half in which he dominated the game, Horton-Tucker finished with a season-high 37 points, 10 assists, and eight rebounds. He shot 14-of-24 from the floor and 2-of-5 from deep.
By far the most impressive part of his night was his ability to stay at that high level for the entire game. Even though he was clearly feeling it on offense, Horton-Tucker stayed within the offense, allowing the Jazz to stay in a rhythm.
"Very clearly, the story of the game is Talen Horton-Tucker," he said. "I am incredibly hard on Talen, I have been all season. … That is because I believe in him. His talent, his ability, he has some real physical gifts that were on display tonight. … He had his best game of mixing attacking to score and attacking to find his teammates. He was spectacular."
"Playing here and playing with coach, knowing what they want for me, they want me to get downhill and kind of help get other guys involved and sometimes score for myself," Horton-Tucker said. "I feel like I try to do that every game. … Tonight, I gotta do it at a higher clip."
2.) Another Fast Start
When speaking with reporters following Utah's loss to Oklahoma City a week ago, Hardy was very stern that his team can't keep putting themselves in big deficits early in games. It takes an insane amount of energy to climb back, and often if you can, you often have nothing left in the tank for the clutch minutes.
It's clear the Jazz have gotten the message.
Utah started out hot against Orlando on Thursday night and picked up the big win. Saturday against the Hornets was a wash, rinse, repeat performance.
With Horton-Tucker controlling the tempo, all five starters scored within the first few minutes as the Jazz jumped out to a 14-7 lead and never trailed the rest of the way.
3.) Kessler Finding Consistency
One of the biggest beneficiaries of Horton-Tucker's breakout game was Walker Kessler, and the big man took advantage of the opportunity.
He finished with his rookie-leading 17th double-double of the season — and fifth in a row — with 17 points and 16 rebounds on 8-of-10 from the floor. He was his typical dominant self on defense, blocking three shots while altering numerous others.
4.) Even A Star Struggles
There was nothing Markkanen could do postgame but sit at his locker and laugh. He knew what questions were coming his way, especially after a brutal 3-for-22 shooting performance against the Hornets.
"It got pretty ridiculous," he said with a smile and laugh. "I can't really do anything but laugh about it. I mean, they were all good looks, they felt fine too. … I guess it was just one of those nights."
What's made Markkanen so special this year — or at least one of the reasons — has been his consistency. He's flirting with a 50-40-90 season, shooting just 88% from the free throw line, but you never would've known if you watched him against Charlotte.
But what has also made Markkanen so great is that even on nights when his shot hasn't dropped — albeit it's been rare — he's found other ways to positively affect the game. He finished with a double-double of 13 points, 13 rebounds, and three assists.
"I've had some slow halves before and you just think that it's going to open up. … You just have to stay aggressive, but it really didn't," Markkanen said with another laugh. "It hasn't happened in a while. But we got the win, and that's really what's most important."
5.) Triple-Double Curse Lives On
The curse lives.
It's been 5,506 days since a Jazz player finished with a triple-double in the regular season — with Carlos Boozer recording one on Feb. 13, 2008. While there have been so many close calls throughout that time, Saturday night was one of the closer ones I can recall.
Horton-Tucker recorded his 10th assist with more than six minutes left in the game, needing just three rebounds to achieve greatness. In the end, he could only grab one more rebound — and although Utah picked up the win, the curse remains strong.