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Jazz get rare, easy win in blowout victory over Charlotte

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SALT LAKE CITY — Jazz coach Will Hardy hasn't been surprised with Utah's propensity of playing tight games. In some ways, he was prepared for it — even stating the team wasn't constructed in a way that would allow for many easy nights.

That fact made Monday night's contest against the Charlotte Hornets a bit irregular.

Utah didn't necessarily play all that well and didn't really have any anomalistic individual performances. Yet, the Jazz rolled to a 120-102 win over Charlotte at Vivint Arena.

Ah, the joys of playing one of the worst teams in the league.

The blowout victory could be seen as a positive sign of sorts. The Jazz, after all, have lost to Houston, Detroit and San Antonio this season — three teams who are actively tanking.

Utah had a 15-point lead by the second quarter, and the Hornets never mounted a serious comeback attempt. And an 18-4 run early in the fourth quarter completely ended any last hope for a comeback.

"They've struggled with a lot of injuries this season," Hardy said of the lowly Hornets. "They're better than their record; and I think that our guys gave them the appropriate respect and came out and competed on both ends."

The Hornets are also a better shooting team than they showed on Monday — but not terribly better.

Charlotte came into the game as the league's worst 3-point shooting team in the NBA — a title it'll certainly keep after its chilly night in Salt Lake City.

Charlotte was 2-of-16 from behind the arc on Monday. The Jazz? They were 16-of-40. That was the game right there. It's near impossible to win a game in the modern NBA by making only two 3s; and even more so when a team loses the 3-point battle by 42 points.

"I think we did a good job with our switching to kind of take away a lot of those off the dribble 3s, and then did a good job for the most part of containing the ball and recognizing when to help and when to fan back out to the shooters," Hardy said.

Did the Hornets make it pretty easy with a bland my-turn, your-turn offense? You bet. Charlotte is one of the more drive-heavy teams in the league. The problem is the drives didn't lead to much except for contested shots at the rim. Some of that was the Jazz doing, some of it was just the Hornets being the Hornets.

"We let them dictate too much on the defensive end," Charlotte forward Gordon Hayward said. "I feel like we didn't get enough good shots and kind of let the game get away from us there."

That happened pretty early, too. And when the Jazz limited the 3-point attempts, there was no comeback in sight.

"We've been inside-out all year. I believe we're like fourth or fifth in drives into the paint per game," Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. We haven't shot the ball well from three. Tonight we didn't get many 3s."

And that made for an easy night at Vivint Arena — at least late. Utah's starters checked out with 4:17 left in the game and probably could have left much earlier.

Lauri Markkanen had 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting and added 11 rebounds to lead the Jazz. Jordan Clarkson had 18 points and Mike Conley scored 14 points in the win.

The Jazz improved to 25-25 on the season and are just one game out of the fifth-place seed in the Western Conference.

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