SALT LAKE CITY — Normally a nine-point quarter, like they had in the fourth quarter Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena, would be a huge concern for the Utah Jazz. But not so much after playing three outstanding quarters in building up as much as a 44-point lead against one of the better defensive teams in the NBA.
When it was all over, the Jazz enjoyed a comfortable 94-66 victory over the Charlotte Hornets, a team that came into the game with a record good enough to be in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but left with a worse record than the red-hot Jazz, who are still well out of the Western Conference playoff picture, but picking up ground fast.
With the victory, the Jazz improved to 30-36 on the season and a league-best 11-2 since the All-Star break while winning their sixth straight game, the best streak in three seasons.
The Jazz buried the Hornets early with a 3-point barrage that included 11 straight, equaling the most in the NBA since 2002-03, and a franchise-best 12 treys in the first half, and they tied a record with 15 for the game.
Rookie Rodney Hood led the way with 24 points, including a perfect 5-of-5 from 3-point land, while five other players hit threes on a 15-for-24 performance from long range.
“Everybody was in the flow tonight and we knocked them down,’’ said Hood. “I felt like I got into a little groove and I just knocked down shots when it came to me. It felt good.’’
Gordon Hayward, who went 3-for-5 from long range for 18 points, just shook his head and smiled when asked if he’d ever been a part of such a team shooting performance.
“No I haven’t — that was pretty special,’’ he said. “It’s a lot more fun when the whole team is hitting and guys are stepping up and making big-time shots. We played really well tonight.’’
Even coach Quin Snyder was able to talk about the offense rather than the defense for a change after the hot shooting night.
“I think when the ball is passed accurately and on time, we get better shots and we got it going tonight,’’ he said. “We got it going early and that can be infectious.’’
It looked for a while like the Jazz were not only on their way to a team 3-point shooting record, but also the largest victory in franchise history as they led by as much as 44 points in the third quarter (the record is 48).
“When we were up like 80-37 or something, you look up like, man I didn’t know we were up this much,’’ said Hayward. “It was starting to get a little crazy, especially when we kept hitting three after three early in the first half. But it was fun to play with these guys tonight.’’
The Jazz led 30-16 after the first quarter, 61-30 at halftime and 85-46 after three quarters, before they went cold in the fourth quarter, hitting just 3-of-17 shots. But it wasn’t even enough for Snyder to complain after the game.
Lost in the shuffle of Utah’s hot shooting was a strong defensive performance that limited the Hornets to 29.5 percent from the field and 26.3 percent from 3-point range. Also, Rudy Gobert had another outstanding rebounding night with 22 boards on the night.
The shell-shocked Hornets, who were playing the first game on a five-game road trip, hardly talked about the Jazz's hot shooting and blamed themselves for the crushing defeat.
“We weren’t ready to play,’’ said Charlotte coach Steve Clifford. “Obviously they played well, but I just told them, ‘in this league playing 82 games, the people that are most responsible for effort and performance are the head coach and best players.’ As you saw tonight, we were not ready, we ain’t playing well.’’
“I guess we came out flat,’’ said Kemba Walker, who scored just five points. “We made so many mistakes tonight. That was on us. They made some tough shots, but this is the NBA and this is going to happen.’’
The Hornets were led by Lance Stephenson with 17 points off the bench and 10 points by ex-Jazzman Al Jefferson.
“We’re not going to shoot that well all the time obviously,’’ said Snyder. “But they’re a very good defensive team and they caught us on a hot night and we caught them on a tough night. So I know we’re fortunate in that respect. Everything lined up for us tonight.’’
The Jazz will stay at home for a game against Washington Wednesday night before heading out on the road for a pair of West Coast games against the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday night and Golden State Saturday night.