Hornets vie for strong start vs. Jazz

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The Charlotte Hornets are back to the beginning in many ways. That’s because they’re talking about the starts of games.

That figures to be one of the areas of emphasis on Saturday when the Utah Jazz visit the Hornets in Charlotte, N.C.

“It all starts with first-quarter urgency,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “I’m proud of this team for continuing to battle.”

The Hornets couldn’t quite complete a comeback from a 24-point deficit, losing 100-98 on Wednesday night at Cleveland.

Even though Terry Rozier missed a potential winning shot in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, it came on a night that the guard registered a career-high 35 points.

“Terry got us back in that game,” Borrego said. “I was happy to see him get going there. He played with great confidence there.”

The Hornets played games on consecutive nights this week, and they had a lull at the beginning of the back-end of that set.

“We just can’t dig ourselves that big of a hole,” Charlotte center Cody Zeller said. “Another tough back-to-back coming up.”

After hosting the Jazz, the Hornets travel to Boston for Sunday’s game.

Utah began a three-game road trip with Thursday night’s 111-106 victory at Atlanta, pushing its winning streak to four games. The Jazz improved to 6-8 in road games.

“You’re not always going to go out there and blow teams out, but we fought and found a way,” Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said.

Guard Mike Conley was out of the Utah lineup again after re-injuring his hamstring earlier this week. He had started in 22 games this season, which is his first with the Jazz. He averages 13.6 points and 4.6 assists per game.

Mitchell, who has reached the 30-point mark eight times this season, was up to the task in Atlanta, which showcases guard Trae Young. Charlotte has productive guards such as Devonte’ Graham and Rozier.

It’s a matter of being aggressive that tends to ignite the Jazz, coach Quin Snyder said.

“I was happy to see us stabilize and defend in the second half, and play with more force offensively,” Snyder said of the game in Atlanta.

Zeller’s recent play has given Charlotte a lift. Borrego said Zeller has provided “great urgency, great competitive spirit” at both ends of the court.

Zeller has been paired with center Bismack Biyombo for some stretches when the Hornets opt for a bigger lineup.

“It gives us a little extra size,” Zeller said. “It has worked (in some) games so we’ll see how it works going forward.”

Charlotte has lost two of its last three contests following a three-game winning streak.

The Hornets have received largely strong backcourt play this season. At Cleveland, the Hornets were charged with only nine turnovers.

The Hornets rode a stellar performance from reserve guard Malik Monk in Tuesday night’s home victory against the Sacramento Kings. He wasn’t able to build much off that because he exited in the first half in Cleveland with a hip injury.

This is the first of two meetings between Utah and Charlotte, with the rematch Jan. 10 at Salt Lake City.

–Field Level Media

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