Fueled by Georges Niang’s 7-of-7 effort from deep inside, Utah overcame early errors for a 132-110 victory.
For most of three-quarters of Monday night, the Utah Jazz played listless basketball, not bothering with the transition defense, forcing isolation glances, being careless with the ball, consumed with arguing with umpires.
They had lost double digits to the Charlotte Hornets and the game would soon reach the final 12 minutes.
And then they activated the mother of all switches.
Rudy Gobert closed the paint and defenders on the perimeter locked up the Hornets shooters. Georges Niang, Joe Ingles, and Jordan Clarkson suddenly had all the open looks they could dream of and they weren’t lost. And a scorching, incendiary and devastating 26-2 streak over a 5-minute stretch turned what was shaping up to be a bad loss into a ridiculously easy 132-110 victory.
“The way we play during the course of the game, that’s the team we want to be. The No. 1 team in the league wins a game like that, ”said Donovan Mitchell, who shook off six mind-blowing turnovers to finish with 23 points, eight assists and four rebounds. “I think that’s where our head really is, that’s where we have to continue to be.”
Utah lost to 81-70 before starting to turn things around. They were behind 90-85 when the real thing happened.
It began, curiously, with a Mike Conley triple that did not count.
Charlotte somehow sent six players onto the court for a timeout, and no one noticed until just when Conley was still wide open, playing five on six, for a 3. The shot was interrupted, the umpires he called a technical foul, and Clarkson did it.
He then followed up with a layup, and Niang added a 3 for a quick little burst of 6-0 to end the period and put the Jazz on top.
They were just beginning.
In the fourth, Clarkson threw an alley-oop to Gobert for the first basket of the latter’s game. Then Clarkson hit a 3. Gordon Hayward got a bucket for Charlotte, but then … Niang hit another 3. Clarkson his other. Then Niang hit another. Then Conley hit one. And then Niang hit another.
It took less than 5 minutes. In that stretch, the Hornets shot 1-of-6 (thanks, in part, to Gobert’s back-to-back blocked shots) and committed two turnovers. And so the Jazz rose 111-92.
“They were very, very comfortable throughout the game. We know we didn’t have a lot of physicality, a lot of interruption in the first half, and they felt good. And when we started to get into them a bit, get physical, protect the basket, it was a different game, “said the Frenchman, who finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks. “Most of the time we are going to be able to score, but if we don’t play defense, we are not going anywhere.”
Niang also gave credit to Gobert and his defensive efforts for bringing about change. But considering the Iowa State Product eliminated his shooting drop with a 7-of-7 effort beyond the arc, no one was going to let him get away with that kind of deflection.
“You can get frustrated if you don’t see the ball go into the basket, particularly someone like Georges, who is as good a shooter as he is. I just liked the fact that he didn’t hesitate and kept shooting, ”said coach Quin Snyder. “And that’s how you make your way, you keep filming. … His shooting is something that, when he’s like this, is something very important to us. It’s a weapon. “
Niang, of course, was completely zen and utterly understated about his escape: “When you take shots, life is great, there are no problems in the world.”
Meanwhile, with Ingles going 7 of 10 from deep for 21 points, and Clarkson hitting 5 of 10 from beyond the arc for 20 points, the Utah bench set an NBA record with 19 3-pointers (as part of a new record team of 28 in total).
“It is an incredible achievement. Nineteen triples is a lot of points, ”added Niang. “He wasn’t a math student, but that’s a lot of points.”
And with that, they were able to momentarily ignore the 23 turnovers that led to the Hornets’ 25 points. They could temporarily forget that their pick-and-roll defense was a sieve for nearly three quarters. They could take a minute to spray Niang with water bottles in a post-game celebration and revel in being 25-6 on the season.
Snyder will see that the reckoning comes.
But in the meantime … yes, there are many points.