Saturday, September 24, 2022
Eagle Eye Sports Monitor

Preview: Utah Jazz (45-28) at Charlotte Hornets (37-36)

Either the Hornets or the Utah Jazz will be in a different situation than they’ve found themselves in to start recent games when the teams meet Friday night in Charlotte.

Both teams can’t face large early deficits, and it’s clear that both teams must focus on getting things right early on.

The Jazz (45-28) are midway through a six-game road trip, going 1-2 so far after Wednesday night’s 125-97 setback at Boston. The Jazz found themselves down 15 points after the first quarter, 23 points at the half.

Utah is in a tight battle for playoff positioning in the Western Conference and the result in Boston was an eye-opener.

“It shows us how committed we have to be to the way we play in order to have success,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said.

The Jazz fell behind by 20 points early in the second quarter. Boston began the game making its first 10 shots from the field, and the Jazz were in a bind the rest of the game.

“We weren’t as focused collectively in that area (on defense),” Snyder said. “Both ends of the floor affect one another, and we had a rough night on both ends.”

Utah shot just 8 of 36 on 3-point attempts, so the Jazz might be excited to encounter a Charlotte defense that allowed the Knicks to make 14 of 26 long-range shots in the first half in New York’s win on Wednesday night.

The Jazz rank seventh in the NBA in 3-point accuracy at 36.3 percent.

The Hornets (37-36) had a five-game winning streak halted by the Knicks in the 121-106 loss on Wednesday night.

Giving up 40 first-quarter points to the Knicks wasn’t part of the winning formula they’d been employing.

“That’s got to get cleaned up,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “We just have to be better. Go back to work like we have been doing. Just get back to our basics, play harder, lock in.”

Guard Terry Rozier said the Hornets can’t afford to slip into a mindset that all is well after some success. Other teams, regardless of their records, are capable of putting the Hornets in a hole. Sluggish starts defensively have been a theme at times for Charlotte.

“That first quarter (has) kind of been a story for a while,” Rozier said. “We’re playing against professionals that know how to hoop. When we dig ourselves into a hole, it’s tough to climb back. We’ve talked about different ways, different solutions.”

Utah is bound to look to guard Donovan Mitchell to lead it once again. He has scored 30 or more points in four straight games and is averaging a team-leading 26.2 points per game.

The Hornets launched 46 shots from 3-point range Wednesday, though some of those might have been a result of what was pretty much a game-long deficit. Only 13 of them went through the hoop.

“A lot of those were clean, wide-open 3s,” Borrego said. “We’ll take those shots.”

Utah captured the first meeting with the Hornets, winning 112-102 on Dec. 20 at home. The Jazz are clinging to a winning road record at 19-17.

The Hornets are 19-18 in Charlotte. After Friday, only three of their final eight games will be at home.

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