Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, left, shoots against Charlotte Hornets center Nick Richards during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Lauri Markkanen had 33 points and 12 rebounds, and the Utah Jazz beat the Charlotte Hornets 134-122 on Saturday night for their 11th victory in 15 games.
Collin Sexton added 24 points and 13 assists as the Jazz (24-23) shot 56% from the field and made 17 3-pointers. They built a 36-point lead in the third quarter, then held off a late Charlotte rally.
P.J. Washington tied a career high with 43 points — 31 in the second half — and Nick Richards added a career-best 26 to go with 13 rebounds for the Hornets (10-34).
The Jazz bolted to a 47-24 lead after the first quarter with Markkanen and Sexton combining for 35 points and seven 3s. Utah shot 18 of 26 from the field in the opening period, including 9 for 14 from beyond the arc — many of those uncontested. Sexton also assisted on six baskets.
It was the most first-quarter points allowed by the Hornets in franchise history.
Utah stretched its lead to 35 in the second quarter, scoring on easy backdoor layups and wide-open 3s while dominating the Hornets on the glass.
“Offensively that first half, with 25 assists, I don’t envision us playing better than that,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “That was kind of the ideal 24 minutes for us offensively.”
Hardy wasn’t so pleased with his team’s second half.
“Then we started playing a lot of iso ball, a lot of our decisions were late and we had a lot of turnovers,” Hardy said. “And we did a horrible job of running P.J. Washington off the line. He got away from us in our zone and I thought the recognition of the players in the back (of the zone) was atrocious tonight and that’s something that we have to work on.”
Charlotte was able to mount a second-half comeback behind Washington, trimming a 36-point deficit to seven with less than a minute remaining. Washington got hot from long range and finished 17 of 22 from the field and 7 for 9 on 3s.
Sexton’s finger roll with 36.9 seconds left finally sealed the win.
The win put the Jazz above .500, a level they’ve struggled to maintain this season. But Sexton said he likes the momentum being created.
“I feel like you can tell how much passion we are playing with,” Sexton said. “At the end of the day, no matter who is scoring and making the plays, I feel like everyone is excited. All of us screaming and yelling, very excited, and I feel like that is what is going to keep this team together.”
It was a rough weekend for Charlotte, which lost by 34 to Houston on Friday night and fell to 0-3 since trading leading scorer Terry Rozier to the Miami Heat.
The Hornets played without three starters, including LaMelo Ball, who sat out with ankle soreness. Gordon Hayward and Mark Williams also remain out.
Rebounding continues with be an issue for the short-handed Hornets.
They were outrebounded by 14 and allowed the Jazz to corral 17 offensive boards. Washington, who is 6-foot-7, and 6-foot-8 rookie Brandon Miller combined for just three rebounds for Charlotte despite playing a combined 72 1/2 minutes of action.
“They actually hammered us” on the offensive glass, coach Steve Clifford said. “They had three huge ones. If we get rebounds in the fourth quarter, we’re going to have chances to get that lead to two possessions, so not very good.”
Jazz: At the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night.
Hornets: Host the New York Knicks on Monday night.