Jazz Sweep Pelicans With Dramatic Overtime Victory
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz continue to be one of the league’s most resilient teams after knocking off the New Orleans Pelicans 132-129 in overtime.
The Jazz trailed by as much as 13 in the second half but got a strong performance from their bench to extend the game to extra time before securing the victory.
Jordan Clarkson scored a season-high 39 while Lauri Markkanen added 31 in the win.
Big Second Half Propels Jazz
The Pelicans jumped on the Jazz to open the third quarter knocking down their first five shots to grow their lead to 13.
Later, the Jazz trailed the Pelicans 89-77 with 5:26 left in the quarter when the team’s bench locked in defensively and held New Orleans to just one point over the next four minutes to retake a 91-90 lead.
During the team’s 14-1 run, Nickeil Alexander-Walker recorded a steal and a block, Walker Kessler added a block, while Malik Beasley and Rudy Gay scored seven points as the second unit fueled the Jazz’s comeback.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) December 16, 2022
In the fourth quarter, the Jazz again found themselves trailing by eight, but battled back over the final ten minutes of the game to send it overtime.
Markkanen scored 13 points in the final frame of regulation while the bench added 14 to erase the Pelicans’ late lead.
The Finnish forward nearly ended the game in the fourth quarter with what would have been a buzzer-beating alley-oop out-of-bounds play, but Pelicans forward Larry Nance blocked the attempt on a near-goaltend.
Markkanen didn’t attempt a field goal in overtime, but his two free throws iced the game in the closing seconds.
The Jazz knocked down 18-47 threes, including 12-23 from Markkanen and Clarkson as the Jazz improved to 18-14 on the season.
Kessler Closes The Game
The Jazz have valued putting their new roster in high-consequence situations this season, rather than simply rolling out the team’s youngest players in an effort to tank games.
That’s including getting Walker Kessler on the floor in strategic moments to encourage growth while limiting his mistakes.
Against the Pelicans, Jazz coach Will Hardy turned to Kessler in the fourth quarter and overtime and got enormous results.
Kessler played all but 13 seconds of the final two periods and produced nine points, seven rebounds, and two blocks, as the Jazz outscored New Orleans by 10 with him on the floor.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) December 16, 2022
It would have been one thing to close the game with Kessler had he been playing well throughout the night, but Hardy turned to the rookie center despite early struggles.
Over the first three quarters, Kessler had scored just two points, grabbed one rebound, and committed three fouls in 11 minutes on the floor.
That’s a strong show of faith from the Jazz coach in his rookie, and one several months in the making as the Jazz have let Kessler earn that trust in previous, lower-stakes moments.
“In the first half he was a little bit on his heels,” Hardy said of Kessler. “In the second half, I thought that his physicality was much better and I thought that his secondary length coming over to challenge Zion [Williamson] at the rim was very helpful for us.”
Hardy has shown a willingness to adjust his rotation night to night, so Kessler may not have assumed the role of the team’s full-time closing center.
But against the Pelicans, Kessler proved that he’s deserving of the trust of his coaching staff.
Sexton On Pace For Return
Shortly before the game, the Jazz announced that Collin Sexton was making progress from his hamstring strain.
The guard missed his fourth straight game against the Pelicans after injuring his hamstring on December 7 but was active on the sidelines cheering for his teammates.
Per the @utahjazz:
Collin Sexton (right hamstring strain) was reevaluated yesterday, which included a follow up MRI. He is progressing as expected, will continue to increase on court work and is day to day.
— Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) December 16, 2022
“Collin Sexton (right hamstring strain) was reevaluated yesterday, which included a follow up MRI,” the Jazz announced. “He is progressing as expected, will continue to increase on court work and is day to day.”
The guard is averaging 14.3 points and 3.0 assists for the Jazz this season.
- Clarkson’s 39 points and eight rebounds were both season highs.
- Mike Conley shot 1-8 and missed four of his six free throws, but his only two points gave the Jazz a three-point lead with 12 seconds left, giving them enough breathing room to survive a Pelicans-made three with two seconds left in regulation.
- Kessler’s 28 minutes were a new career-high.
- Kessler has 11 games this season with three or more blocks and only eight games with none.
The Utah Jazz and the Bucks will tip off at 6 pm MT in Milwaukee. The game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. It can also be streamed on DirecTV Stream and FuboTV.
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