Lauri Markkanen Hot Early For Jazz Against Trail Blazers
SALT LAKE CITY – ‘The Finnisher’ started hot on Saturday night, scoring nine points in the first five minutes as the Utah battles with Portland.
The Jazz (14-11) are playing host to the Damian Lillard-less Portland Trail Blazers (11-11) at Vivint Arena on Saturday, December 3.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 4, 2022
Jarred Vanderbilt assisted on two early three’s for Markkannen. Later in the quarter, a Vanderbilt pass led to Markkanen being fouled while shooting from deep. The first-year Jazz forward knocked down all three free throws after the foul.
Markkanen leads the Jazz, averaging 22.3 points per game after being acquired from Cleveland in the Donovan Mitchell trade.
Portland has been on fire in the opening quarter. The Trail Blazers are shooting 66.7 percent from the field as they lead Utah 34-24 with just over three minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
Utah Jazz Host Portland Trail Blazers
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.
Back for more 🍿
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 3, 2022
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 Pacers 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.
Walker Kessler Shows Major Growth
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 last night against the Indiana Pacers.
Best game of Walker Kessler's (NBA) life no question.
— Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) December 3, 2022
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.”
Walker Kessler Friday night became the first rookie in more than 20 years (and just the fourth in NBA history) to put up 20+ points and 10+ rebounds without missing a FG. #TakeNote pic.twitter.com/k2vTRfhKiY
— Brett Usher (@UsherNBA) December 3, 2022
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.”
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