Jazz look to get back on track vs. suddenly surging Hornets

By Thomson Reuters Feb 22, 2024 | 12:18 AM

Though the Utah Jazz stumbled into the NBA All-Star break, the play of Keyonte George offered somewhat of a silver lining.

The Jazz are hopeful the rookie guard can continue his pre-break momentum while also helping them end a slide when they face the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Though they’re both 3-7 in their last 10 outings, the Jazz and Hornets enter this contest in opposite directions.

Utah dropped four in a row before the break, including its failed comeback attempt against the Golden State Warriors in a 140-137 loss last Thursday. The Jazz have dropped 10 of 14 games since going a season-best two games above .500 at 22-20.

Charlotte, meanwhile, enters on its first three-game winning streak of the season after beating the Memphis Grizzlies, Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks. That came after a 10-game losing streak.

In their most recent victory, Brandon Miller scored 26 points and Tre Mann amassed 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the Hornets’ 122-99 drubbing of the Hawks last Wednesday.

The winning streak started after the Hornets acquired Mann, Grant Williams, Vasilije Micic, Seth Curry and Davis Bertans before the trade deadline.

“Without the guys we brought in, we wouldn’t be winning, for sure,” Miller said. “They helped push all of the young guys and the older guys. Everybody is coaching each other and making each other better.”

Williams added 15 points and 10 rebounds against the Hawks, while Micic contributed 13 points and five assists to help the Hornets earn their first double-digit victory this season.

“The smarter your group is, everything becomes easier,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “I thought we could be good offensively, but now I’m starting to see the defense can also be really good without having to run around and double team. And Grant Williams is a big part of that.”

The Hornets’ winning streak occurred at home. Thursday’s matchup begins a four-game Western trip against Utah, Golden State, Portland and Milwaukee. Charlotte is 5-20 on the road.

The Jazz are 17-10 at home but have lost three in a row at the Delta Center. George nearly helped Utah claw out of a 19-point deficit against the Warriors last Thursday. He drained 9 of 16 attempts from beyond the arc and recorded a career-high 33 points.

“Tonight was probably his sort of coming-out party in terms of being a 3-point shooter,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said after the game.

George also dished out six assists while tying an NBA record for 3-pointers by a rookie and making the second-most 3s in Jazz franchise history.

“Being aggressive was the main thing,” George said. “Will harps on me a lot about taking the right shots, taking open shots. I work on every shot that I took today, so it’s just about trying to find a rhythm, so that’s what happened tonight.”

The Jazz beat the Hornets 134-122 on Jan. 27 in Charlotte in their first matchup this season. P.J. Washington led all scorers with 43 points, while Lauri Markkanen scored 33 for the Jazz.

–Field Level Media