It was beginning to look like a lost season when the Utah Jazz were wobbling around and mired in a 7-16 start.
Slightly more than a month later, the Jazz are the NBA’s hottest team.
Utah aims to stretch its NBA-best winning streak to six games as well as win for the 15th time in 19 games when it hosts the Indiana Pacers on Monday night at Salt Lake City.
The Jazz have won eight of their past nine contests after dispatching the visiting Los Angeles Lakers 132-125 on Saturday night. Utah is averaging 130.6 points during the five-game winning streak.
The Jazz scored 27 fast-break points while winning their eighth consecutive home game. Utah is 3-0 on the six-game homestand.
“We didn’t want this game to be played all in the halfcourt,” Utah coach Will Hardy said. “We felt like our speed in transition was an advantage. The team did a really good job of recognizing that and getting out and running.”
Lauri Markkanen recorded 29 points, nine rebounds and five assists against the Lakers and Collin Sexton added 27 points. Jordan Clarkson had 21 off the bench.
John Collins contributed 19 points and 13 rebounds and Keyonte George also had 19 points as the Jazz displayed impressive balance.
“It’s taken a while, but I think we’re finding an identity on both ends of the floor and we’re able to execute night in and night out,” Markkanen said.
Markkanen is averaging 26.2 points and 11.4 rebounds during the five-game winning streak. Sexton is averaging 22.0 points and 5.4 assists and Clarkson is averaging 21.6 points and 6.0 assists.
The Pacers also are a hot squad with nine victories in 11 games despite falling 117-109 to the host Denver Nuggets on Sunday. Indiana is 1-1 on a six-game road trip.
The Pacers fell to 2-1 since star guard Tyrese Haliburton injured his left hamstring. Haliburton may not return until February.
Bruce Brown led Indiana with 18 points and also had 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals. It was a big day for Brown as he was presented with his championship ring from being part of the Denver team that won last season’s NBA title.
“It was great. It was more than what I had expected,” Brown said. “I didn’t know the crowd was going to cheer like that. I almost started crying.”
Haliburton’s absence was apparent with Indiana having just seven fast-break points. The Pacers also were just 8 of 29 from 3-point range before Denver waved off Indiana’s challenge behind stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
“I thought we fought hard in this game,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. “There were some frustrating parts of it. A lot of this came down to Jokic’s greatness and Murray’s greatness, but we hung in and didn’t play our best game and still were hanging in.”
Indiana was without Aaron Nesmith (shin soreness). Nesmith was 8 of 13 from 3-point range over the previous three games.
The Pacers haven’t had a 20-point scorer in the three games without Haliburton.
Nesmith (24 points), Bennedict Mathurin (22) and Myles Turner (22) all topped 20 points when the Pacers notched a 134-118 victory over the visiting Jazz on Nov. 8. Clarkson scored 33 points and Markkanen added 24 for Utah.
–Field Level Media
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