|Time||9 p.m. ET|
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The Jazz host the Hornets on Monday night in a matchup between two teams looking to find some momentum.
The Hornets have lost consecutive games on their current road trip to the Trail Blazers and Suns while losing three of four on the road trip. The Hornets will be playing the second leg of a back-to-back on Monday as the Suns dominated them 137-106 on Sunday.
Will the Jazz finally live up to expectations as a home favorite, or will the Hornets dig deep to bounce back after their worst blowout loss of the year?
Hornets Need Defensive Improvement
If the Hornets cover or pull the upset as double-digit underdogs, it will be because they improve their horrific defense that has allowed opponents to get whatever they want offensively.
The Hornets have been elite on offense as they rank second in the league with 114.6 points scored per 100 possessions ( excluding garbage time, per Cleaning The Glass). However, they also rank dead last in Defensive Efficiency as they have allowed 114.4 points per 100 possessions.
The Hornets are coming off of one of their worst defensive performances of the season against the Suns when they allowed 37 points in the first quarter as they trailed by 22 points after 12 minutes of play. The Suns found consistent success up and down their roster as every single one of their normal rotation players scored double digits in the win.
The hits keep on coming. Cody Martin has been awesome for Charlotte this season: important team defender, wing rotation piece, and in the midst of career year shooting the ball
Fingers crossed he's OK and that others won't have to join him in the protocols https://t.co/TGjIsaXkzJ
— Brian Geisinger (@bgeis_bird) December 19, 2021
The Hornets’ best perimeter defender, Cody Martin, entered Health and Safety protocols on Sunday afternoon, and it is worth monitoring to see if any other Hornets are affected. Martin also surprisingly leads the NBA as he is shooting 51% on 3s this season.
Jazz Inconsistent as Huge Favorites
If the Jazz win and cover as home favorites, it will be because they play with more energy on the defensive perimeter against the Hornets’ balanced scoring attack.
While the Hornets are elite on one end of the court and horrific on the other, the Jazz have been impressive on both ends as they are first in Offensive Efficiency (118.9) and fifth in Defensive Efficiency (107.1). However, they have struggled individually to defend on the perimeter, and they need to keep players like LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges, and Gordon Hayward in front of them to cover the double-digit spread.
The Jazz should have a significant advantage inside with reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert going up against the Hornets’ bigs like Mason Plumlee, PJ Washington and Nick Richards.
The Jazz this season are 6-5 as a double digit favorite…
straight up. Not ATS. They’ve won six, lost five as a double-digit favorite this season. https://t.co/NLjRErWbBI
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) December 19, 2021
Utah needs to play with better effort as a heavy favorite because after losing as 10-point favorites to the Wizards on Saturday, they are now just 6-6 straight up (not ATS!) as a double-digit favorite.
While the Jazz haven’t been profitable as a heavy favorite this season, this should be as good of an opportunity to do so as ever after a day off against a reeling Hornets team coming into elevation on the second leg of a back-to-back. The Jazz should also be focused and motivated after consecutive home losses over the weekend.
The Hornets are incredibly flawed defensively as they haven’t played with enough energy and accountability on that end, don’t have a center who fits the rest of their roster, and will be without their best perimeter defender.
The Jazz should get off to a fast start against this Hornets team that has been slow to get out of the gates in their three losses on the current road trip. In those games, the Hornets were outscored by an average margin of 38.2-19.6.
While I lean toward the Jazz on the spread as 11-point favorites on FanDuel, I like them even more on the first quarter spread (-4.5) with value down to -6.5 as they should get off to a fast start like other Hornets opponents. Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz should tee off from beyond the arc while Gobert gets second-chance opportunities inside against a lesser Hornets frontcourt.
Pick: Jazz 1Q -4.5