Jazz Drub Pacers, Kessler Shows Significant Growth

Dec 2, 2022, 10:34 PM


Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler goes up for a rebound (Photo: Deseret News/Ben B. Braun)

(Photo: Deseret News/Ben B. Braun)

SALT LAKE CITY – Walker Kessler had the best game of his career as the Utah Jazz crushed the Indiana Pacers 139-119.

The Jazz were led in scoring by Lauri Markken who recorded 24 points, while Kessler’s 20 points off the bench carried the team to its second straight win.

The game leaned heavily in the Jazz favor for the majority of the night. The Pacers closed the Jazz’s double-digit lead late in the second quarter, but the Jazz answered with a 17-0 run before halftime and didn’t let up in the second half.

Walker Kessler Shows Major Growth Vs. Pacers

Walker Kessler had the best night of his NBA career scoring 20 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, blocking two shots, and shooting a perfect 7-7 from the floor.

But it wasn’t just Kessler’s career highs in points and rebounds that made it his best showing in a Jazz uniform, it was how he got his stats.

Much of Kessler’s scoring on alley-oops where his teammates recorded easy assists near the rim. It’s an area where Jazz coach Will Hardy thinks his rookie recenter can thrive.

“He has good hands so it’s not just the dunks, it’s the ones that are a little bit off target he can still catch and put off the board and finish,” Hardy said.

“Walker’s a good athlete, he can really run and jump so I definitely think that he’s somebody that moving forward, we’re really hoping we can be a consistent lob threat for us.”

Early in his career Kessler has proven he has a more advanced post-up game than former Jazzman Rudy Gobert, but he wasn’t near the weapon on easy alley-oop passes at the basket.

Gobert was able to stretch the floor the Jazz despite his limited offense toolkit because of how dangerous he was catching lobs.

If Kessler can continue to develop there, his scoring numbers will skyrocket, as will his teammates’ assist numbers.

Hardy also praised Kessler’s work on the glass against Indiana, an area where the Jazz have struggled so far this season.

“Tonight was also his best game of the season defensive rebounding because his instinct is to go protect the rim and alter shots, and he can be out of position to rebound at times,” Hardy said. “I think he picked his spots well, when they go challenge and when to focus on rebounding.”

It was Kessler’s first double-digit rebounding game since the opening night of the season when he grabbed 10 against the Denver Nuggets.

Carlise Not Surprised Terry Is Coaching

While it may have come as a surprise for some Jazz fans that Jason Terry joined Will Hardy’s coaching staff before the season, it didn’t catch Pacers coach Rick Carlise off guard.

Carlise coached Jason Terry for several seasons while they were with the Dallas Mavericks, including their championship run in 2011.

According to Carlise, Terry’s has always been a coach.

“He was coaching his daughter’s AAU teams the whole time that I was with him in Dallas going back to 2008,” the Pacers coach said.

Terry and Carlise caught up with one another before the game to discuss the longtime NBA sixth man’s new role with the Jazz.

“He’s having a blast here with these guys, not surprisingly,” Carlise said.

Prior to the season, it was assumed that at only 34 years old, Hardy may choose to fill out his coaching staff with former NBA head coaches that could help show him the ropes.

That hasn’t been the case.

Though several members of his staff have prior head coaching experience in the G League or in international play, none have led NBA teams.

It does coincide with the cultures Hardy has worked in during his time as an assistant.

Beginning with the San Antonio Spurs the new Jazz coach worked with Mike Budenholzer, Mike Brown, Ettore Messina, James Borrego, Jacque Vaughn, and Ime Udoka, all of whom earned head coaching jobs elsewhere.

Hardy followed Udoka to Boston who similarly filled out his staff with up-and-comers, rather than more experienced staff.

So while Terry is in Utah now, don’t be surprised if he lands a bigger job elsewhere in the near future.

“He’ll be a great NBA head coach as well,” Carlise predicted.

Jazz Prepare To Host Trail Blazers Saturday

The Jazz now turn their attention to the Portland Trail Blazers on the second night of a back-to-back.

Portland is on an extended rest, having not played since Wednesday night in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Trail Blazers, like the Jazz, opened the season making a surprise fight for the spot in the Western Conference before key injuries derailed their momentum.

Portland was 10-4 on November 16, but has since dropped seven of their last eight outings, and sits at 11-11 and in 10th place in the Western Conference.

Their struggles coincide with a calf strain to Damian Lillard who has missed the team’s last four games.

Lillard originally suffered the injury in the Jazz and Trail Blazers’ last meeting which the Jazz won 118-113.

The superstar guard is not expected to suit up for Portland until they return home to face the Pcares on December 4.

In their last meeting, the Jazz got 29 points from Malik Beasley off the bench and 28 from Jordan Clarkson who led all starters.

Anfernee Simons scored 23 points to lead the Blazers but was only 4-13 from the three-point line in the loss.

Jazz Next Broadcast

The Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers will tip off at 7 pm MT in Salt Lake City. The game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. The game will also be streamed on DirecTV Stream and FuboTV.


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Jazz Drub Pacers, Kessler Shows Significant Growth