CHARLOTTE — If you happened to be watching the first half of the Utah Jazz’s win over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night, you were one of the lucky ones who witnessed Jazz history and saw a marvel of near-perfect basketball.
If you kept watching past the first half, I’m sorry.
In the second half, the Jazz did a 180, squandering most of their 35-point lead and doing the opposite of all the beautiful things that had given them an 82-47 advantage at the half.
Fortunately the Jazz were able to keep the Hornets from getting too close and ultimately came away with a 134-122 win, but it was quite a ride in getting to the finish line.
“We’re not as good as the first half, or as bad as the second half,” Jazz head coach Will Hardy said. “I think if we came in tonight and you said we would win by 12 on the road we would have taken it.”
Of course, if you’d told the Jazz they would have led by 35 at the half to win by 12, they would have had a lot of questions about what happened.
“The first half the ball obviously was moving around great,” Hardy said. “We had 25 assists in a half — which was ball movement and also a lot of shotmaking.
“The second half we stopped doing all those things. We stopped moving the ball, we started playing a lot of iso, all of our decisions were late and a lot of turnovers in the second half.”
What the Jazz were able to do in the first half was remarkable by any standard. They nearly scored 50 points in the first quarter and went into the locker room at halftime with that huge lead.
Through the first half they were shooting just a hair under 60% from 3-point land, they were getting anything they wanted and their 82 first-half points were a franchise record for points scored in a half.
But that’s not realistic and it’s not sustainable. The Jazz aren’t going to be able to replicate that on a night-to-night basis.
What they did in the second half should serve as a blueprint of what not to do, especially when it comes to P.J. Washington, who scored a career-high tying 43 points, with 31 of them coming in the second half.
“Just have to locate him,” Lauri Markkanen said after being reminded that Washington hit six 3-pointers in the second half. “We lost him a couple of times and once they’re going in, even the tough shots start feeling comfortable.”
So while the win over the Hornets showed the absolute best that this Jazz team is probably capable of, followed by some of the worst that they’re capable of, it also serves as a good reminder that the NBA is about timing and confidence.
Catch a team when they are not paying attention and you can exploit their weaknesses. But if you relax, even for a second, this is a league full of players capable of dropping 43 on you in the blink of an eye.