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"That's What we are Chasing" — 5 Things to Know Following Utah's Victory Over Charlotte

Ryan Kostecka
Digital Content Writer

After a history-making first half, the Jazz appeared to be in great shape against the Hornets. But Charlotte didn't go down easily, forcing head coach Will Hardy to play his starters late into the fourth quarter. 

Ultimately, Utah held strong and picked up the 134-122 victory. The Jazz now have back-to-back wins and improved to 24-23 on the year while moving into 9th place in the Western Conference.

"Tonight is one of those reminders that the timing of things can make you feel certain ways," Hardy said postgame. "We're not as good as the first half, and we aren't as bad as the second half. I think if we came in tonight and said we would come in and win by 12 on the road, we would've taken it."

Here are five things to know following the win. 

1.) History-Making Night
For 50 years, no team in the Jazz organization has had a first quarter like this year's squad just did on Saturday night. 

In the opening 12 minutes, Utah set a franchise record with 47 points — which would've been 50 if not for Collin Sexton's last-second three rimming out. The Jazz shot 18-of-26 from the field and 9-from beyond the arc to take a 23-point lead into the second quarter. More than just offensively, the Jazz got after it on the defensive end. They held the Hornets to 10-of-27 from the field.

Lauri Markkanen was especially dominant, finishing with 18 points on 4-of-6 shooting from three. Collin Sexton was just as good, dropping 17 points, six assists, and two steals. 

The good vibes didn't stop there as Utah led 82-47 at the break, setting a franchise record for points in the half. The Jazz also dished out a franchise-record 25 assists in the first half, with six players notching at least two. Markkanen and Sexton combined for 45 points in the opening 24 minutes. 

"The first half, the ball was moving around great," Hardy said. "I thought the quality of shots were great. … That's what we are chasing, can we generate that good of looks for our team? There were a lot of people that were making plays, and the ball just ended up finding Collin and Lauri a lot to finish those plays."

2.) Double-Doubles
With Charlotte cutting Utah's 35-point halftime lead in half heading to the fourth quarter, Markkanen and Sexton came up with big plays when the Jazz needed them most. Sexton's personal 4-0 run in the game's final minute clinched the victory, while Markkanen grabbed five rebounds in the final six minutes. 

Markkanen continued to prove his All-Star candidacy when he finished with 33 points and 12 rebounds, his 15th double-double this season. He shot 12-of-18 from the floor and 7-for-12 from beyond the arc, a season-high in threes. He also added three assists and one steal.

Sexton also recorded a double-double and finished with 24 points, 13 assists, and four rebounds in one of his best performances of the year. His 13 assists were a career-high. He shot 9-of-19 from the field and 3-for-7 from three. 

3.) Dunn Defense
Although he doesn't get talked about nearly as much as he should, Kris Dunn has been essential as the Jazz have turned their season around over the last six weeks.

While he finished with a modest stat line of seven points, six assists, and four rebounds in 17 minutes, his influence goes far beyond the box score. 

Heading into the game against Washington two nights ago, Dunn led the NBA in the lowest field goal percentage allowed as the closest defender this season at 39% (minimum 200 shots defended). That number is now lower after the past two games. He held the Wizards to 2-of-6 shooting on Thursday and the Hornets to 3-of-8 on Saturday. 

"Kris gives our team a swagger," Hardy said. "Energy is at a premium this time of year. You need to find life sources in different ways, and Kris does that with his swagger and with his mouth for our team. … His personality has taken on a leadership role for our team."

4.) Take of Two Halves
One of the most insightful pieces of information that Hardy has told me came last year when he said, "A double-digit lead in the first half means nothing in the NBA." 

Typically, when a team has a massive lead in the first 24 minutes, complacency starts to creep in. And before you know it, it's a single-digit lead in the fourth quarter, and it's anybody's game. That was the fear on Saturday night after the Jazz got off to a blistering start in the first half — would the team finish strong or get complacent and let the Hornets creep back in?

Following a layup by Dunn early in the half, Utah stretched its lead to 36. However, Charlotte didn't go down without a fight. The Hornets outscored the Jazz 38-19 over the final 9:46 of the quarter to trim Utah's lead to just 17 heading into the final 12 minutes. 

While the Jazz kept the Hornets at bay for most of the fourth quarter, PJ Washington and Charlotte caught fire late. A Washington three-pointer cut Utah's lead to seven with just 58 seconds remaining. Although Sexton would get a bucket on the other end to put the game out of reach, there is still a lesson to be learned.

"Credit to Charlotte, they flipped it, and the shotmaking went their way," Hardy said. "But overall, I'm happy that we won. … You'd rather learn some of this stuff in a win. I do recognize the human element that it's hard to play up 35, there can be slippage in those moments. … But we are trying to fight that habit so that we can continue to get better."

"We just wanted, in other words, to 'finish our food,'" John Collins (20 points, nine rebounds) said. "We had a big lead, and we let them come back. We knew we weren't going to have that 36-point lead for the entire game. … We just wanted to weather that storm."

5.) Scoring Streak
With a three-pointer by Ochai Agbaji with 7:19 left in the fourth quarter, Utah extended its franchise record to 11 straight games of 120+ points scored. That is also the longest streak in the NBA this season, and now just one behind tying the league record of 12 consecutive games — done three times in history. 

Ironically, this recent run came on the heels of a 97-point outing in a loss to Boston, their worst offensive output in a month. The Jazz are now 8-3 during this stretch, averaging 128.7 points per game. They're shooting 51.2% from the field and 38.4% from beyond the arc, averaging 31 assists on 46.2 makes per game.

Utah was even more efficient against the Hornets, shooting 52-of-93 (55.9%) from the field and 17-for-41 (41.5%) from beyond the arc. They dished out a season-high 38 assists, with five players recording at least three. 

"It started in the locker room," Collins said of Utah's fast start. "We came into the locker room with good vibes, and it just bled onto the court. … I feel like that momentum from when we start the game is huge."