SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder laid out a laundry list of things that went wrong in the first half of his team's 132-110 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday.
The Jazz (25-6) weren't alert. They weren't locked up on the ball in pick and roll. They didn't talk. They switched late. They weren't boxing out and fighting for rebounds. They didn't pick up the ball high enough on screens. They weren't staying with guys in the corner. They didn't get back in transition.
Suffice it to say, the Jazz were playing poorly.
That's why Charlotte took a lead at halftime and built an 11-point lead midway through the third quarter. Utah, the team with the best record in the league, was suddenly on the ropes — or not.
The switch flipped.
Turns out, the Jazz only needed about 10 minutes of good basketball on Monday against Charlotte — and might not have even needed all that.
The Jazz went on a 41-11 run between the third and fourth quarters — a stretch that included a 26-2 surge, and a 12-0 run that all happened in less than two minutes.
"When we started to get into them a little, get physical, protect the basket, it was a different game," Rudy Gobert said. "Most of the time we are going to be able to score, but if you don't play defense, we are not going to go nowhere."
Gobert said it was sometimes nice to get "a slap in the face" to serve as a reminder of how the Jazz need to play. No, it was not in reference to the elbow he took on the chin in the second half — a play that resulted in technicals for both Gobert and Snyder for being outraged after Gobert was called for a foul. The foul was reversed after replay; the technicals stood.
The Hornets aren't a bad team and are fighting for a playoff spot in the East. And Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball are leading an exciting young core. But once the Jazz figured stuff out, or gave a bit more energy, the rout was on.
From the 10:26 mark of the fourth quarter to 8:32, the Jazz connected on four threes on consecutive possessions, all while Gobert showed just why he is the heavy favorite to win his third Defensive Player of the Year award.
One sequence encapsulated the entire second-half surge: Charlotte's PJ Washington drove to the lane and was swatted by Gobert; the ball bounced right to Cody Zeller on the other side of the paint and he was then blocked by Gobert. Two blocks on two different sides of the key all within a second of each other.
But that wasn't the end of it. The Jazz grabbed the rebound and were out and running. Jordan Clarkson zipped a pass to Mike Conley in the corner and he hit one of the Jazz's team-record 28 threes (it is now the third time Utah has broken its 3-point record). The crowd erupted, high-fives were exchanged, and the Hornets were left wondering what exactly just happened.
"It's always easy to say maybe what we should have done from the beginning, but that's not always gonna be the case," said Donovan Mitchell, who had 23 points and eight assists. "We're always gonna have teams that come out ready, that are ready to beat us, ready to play us, ready to go."
But he added: "The number one team in the league wins a game like that."
That message was clear: Even when great teams don't have a great 48 minutes, they should find a way to win.
On Monday, it was a bench brigade of Joe Ingles (21 points, six assists, five rebounds), Georges Niang (21 points on a perfect 7-of-7 3-point shooting) and Clarkson (20 points) that got the offense rolling in the third quarter. And once Gobert got locked in, it was game on — and then quickly game over.
"When I make plays like that I think it fuels the whole team and all of a sudden everyone got more energy and we start falling even more," Gobert said.
And for those a little concerned about the lackluster first half, consider this: The LA Lakers lost to the Washington Wizards Monday. With that as context, a flip-switching game against the Hornets doesn't seem all that bad.