"Winning In This League Is Hard" | Horton-Tucker's Near Triple-Double Lifts Utah To Win Over Charlotte

Ryan Kostecka
Digital Content Writer

It's the fifth game of a six-game road trip, and your best player has one of his worst shooting performances of the season — those aren't typically winning ingredients for a team.

It didn't matter for the Utah Jazz on Saturday night, it didn't matter — Talen Horton-Tucker picked the perfect time for the best game of his Utah career. Flirting with a triple-double, Horton-Tucker was the answer the Jazz needed as Utah held off Charlotte for the 119-111 victory.

"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."

When speaking pregame, Hardy was asked about the development of Horton-Tucker, especially considering where he started this season to where he's at now. Without hesitation, Hardy spoke for nearly a full minute about his point guard, lauding him for the role he's played himself into and how he's not just taken advantage of his opportunity but become a significant driving force in the recent success of the team.

Although Horton-Tucker never heard the praise from his coach pregame, he played like it.

After a sensational first half in which he dominated the game, Horton-Tucker finished with 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.

"When Lauri wasn't playing great, we needed someone to step up," Hardy said. "The story of the game was Talen. All the hard work showed up tonight, and that's not a little thing. … I couldn't be happier for him."

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.

Hardy was pleased with Utah's start for the third straight game as all five starters scored within a few minutes — largely thanks to Horton-Tucker. He was great at the beginning, controlling the tempo, knowing when to attack and push the pace, helping the Jazz jump out to a 14-7 lead.

The Hornets would battle back to make it a one-point game following four straight by former Jazzman Gordon Hayward, but back-to-back threes by Ochai Agbaji and Simone Fontecchio made it a 32-25 game with a minute left in the first.

Utah led 32-29 after one.

After Charlotte ended the first on a 4-0 run, they added another bucket to make it a one-point game on the opening possession, but Rudy Gay answered for Utah. The teams would exchange buckets for the next few possessions before the Jazz went on a 7-0 run, including a three by Johnny Juzang, to take a 43-35 midway through the quarter.

The Hornets would rally again, cutting the deficit to three — but it was Horton-Tucker's time to take over. A personal 9-2 run, followed by a Kelly Olynyk bucket, gave the Jazz a 12-point lead with just over three to go in the half.

Charlotte responded to cut the deficit to seven, but Horton-Tucker answered with a scoop layup with one second left to give Utah the momentum at the half.

The Jazz led 58-49 at the break.

The Hornets came out playing well to start the third, cutting the deficit to six following an and-one by Nick Richards. However, Horton-Tucker again took over as Utah rolled off a quick 13-3 run to lead by 16 early in the half.

Playing as free and loose as they have in a long time, the Jazz got out in transition and pushed the tempo. They ran off every missed shot by Charlotte, taking advantage of the mismatches as Kessler began to assert his will down low.

Kelly Oubre Jr. found a rhythm for the Hornets late in the quarter, going on a 10-4 run to give Charlotte some momentum heading to the final quarter.

Utah led 97-81 entering the fourth.

Looking to get the crowd re-engaged, the Hornets came out firing in the first couple of minutes as an 8-0 run cut Utah's lead to 10 with nine minutes left. With the starters checking back in, the Jazz stabilized and were able to up the lead to 10 with just under seven to go.

As was the theme for most of the night, every time the Hornets appeared to gain momentum, Horton-Tucker answered. He followed up a Charlotte three with one of his own to make it an 11-point game with three minutes to go, sending the fans inside the Spectrum Center to the exits.

Despite the off shooting night, Markkanen finished with a double-double of 13 points, 13 rebounds, and three assists. Olynyk added 17 points and six rebounds, while Agbaji added 10 points and three rebounds.

Utah will finish its six-game road trip when they face Miami on Monday night.