The Triple Team: Talen Horton-Tucker nears a triple-double as Jazz beat Hornets

Utah Jazz guard Talen Horton-Tucker scores past Charlotte Hornets forward Kai Jones during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, March 11, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 119-111 win over the Charlotte Hornets from Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. Talen Horton-Tucker’s coming-out party

There’s perhaps no better occasion for a point guard’s best game than against the Charlotte Hornets. And yet, we have no choice but to be impressed with Talen Horton-Tucker’s game tonight. He had 37 points, 10 assists, and 8 rebounds: literally only Pete Maravich and Adrian Dantley have done that in a Jazz uniform. Karl Malone didn’t ever get it, nor did John Stockton, nor did Deron Williams, nor did Gordon Hayward or Donovan Mitchell.

First of all, he made nine shots within three feet of the rim tonight. Usually, he’s a a little bit of a suspect finisher, but against this defense, he really compressed and simplified his finishing package. These are just normal, good layups against long opposition — not trying to do too much, just getting the ball under the shotblocker’s arm and having a good chance to go in.

And then you love aggression that works as well as this:

Then there’s the passing. I’m sorry, but look at all 10 of THT’s passes tonight... they’re all pretty exquisite. Something like this... this is real point guard stuff.

Okay, so now the big question: can THT keep this up? Is this a building block or an aberration?

Personally, I think it’s somewhere in between: a learning opportunity. THT did this tonight because he took his time in the paint, never going full bore and just trying double-clutch layups. To be sure, a lax Charlotte defense helped, but THT honestly made good read after good read. If he can keep that up... well, the 22-year-old can become a really helpful NBA player.

2. Lauri Markkanen’s 3-22 FGs

I almost typed 3-222. Sometimes, it felt like that. Obviously 3-22 from the field is the worst Markkanen game of the season... and yet the Jazz won!

First of all, I’m reminded of the Kobe Bryant quote, talking about a bad Deron Williams night: “I would go 0-30 before I would go 0-9. 0-9 means you beat yourself, you psyched yourself out of the game, because Deron Williams can get more shots in the game. The only reason is because you’ve just now lost confidence in yourself.”

Clearly, 3-22 is more on the side of 0-30 than 0-9.

I’m completely okay with 1-9 from the 3-point line; sometimes that’ll happen. But getting blocked six times from inside the arc is less good, and was the major reason behind Markkanen’s low FG% tonight.

In particular, this is a move where he just needs to be stronger with his body.

This is a post move which ends up being a clean strip from P.J. Washington:

Listen, this has been one of the best surprising seasons of all time, and Markkanen deserves immense props for that. But I think it’s fair then to ask “How can Lauri get better?” And the answer is in dealing with defensive pressure. You see in the videos above that he gets stripped when the defense has a chance to anticipate his moves.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe pointed out an opportunity to improve at playmaking, and Markkanen had 3 assists tonight. But I think there were times in which he could have been either more physically imposing — against those six blocks — or could have found a teammate for more success.

3. Offensive rebounds, especially from Walker Kessler

Wanna know why the Jazz won this game? They got fully 43% of their own missed shots in the form of offensive rebounds, which gave them 25 second-chance points. Bingo!

Walker Kessler had eight of those offensive rebounds. Here’s all of them, if you want to see.

The whole highlight reel is impressive: Kessler honestly stealing rebounds from less interested opponents. Should Kessler get this putback? Eh. Does he? You bet... and he finishes easily too.

Again, this one is just about outworking the opposition, too:

In his first, rookie year, Kessler is exactly 4th in the NBA in offensive rebounding percentage, behind only Clint Capela, Mitch Robinson, and Isaiah Hartenstein. That’s pretty special — those two Knicks in the top three help explain why that team has exceeded expectations this year. Those offensive rebounds really matter, and can turn games like this one from losses into wins.

When Kessler missed the Dallas game due to illness, the Jazz only gathered 13% of offensive rebounds... I don’t think it’s going too far to say that the Jazz likely would have won that game had Kessler would have been available. We can argue whether the Jazz should be shooting for wins or losses right now, but there’s no doubt about Kessler’s impact in the positive direction.

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