Markkanen Heroics Not Enough To Slow Jazz Slide

Dec 30, 2022, 11:20 PM | Updated: 11:27 pm

Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen...

Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Lauri Markkanen continued his All-Star-worthy campaign but it wasn’t enough for the Utah Jazz to snap their losing streak in Sacramento.

The Finnish forward scored a game-high 36 points but missed what would have been the game-winning jump shot as the Jazz fell to the Kings 126-125.

With the loss, the Jazz return to Utah going winless on their three-game road trip.

Markkanen Answers Criticism Against Sacramento

The leading narrative coming out of the Jazz’s loss to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday was the lack of impact Markkanen had in the fourth quarter.

The Jazz’s leading scorer entered the final period with 29 points but went scoreless over the final 12 minutes on 0-6 shooting.

Though Markkanen led the Jazz in fourth-quarter field goal attempts, they were mostly passive looks including three missed three-pointers.

Against Sacramento, Markkanen erased that talking point.

The 26-year-old scored 11 of his 36 points in the fourth, including seven points in the final 2:01 of the game to give the Jazz the lead and a chance to win the game.

Ultimately, Markkanen’s effort wasn’t enough, but it was the type of performance the forward will have to turn in consistently if he wants to be the man for the Jazz.

It felt good coming out of my hand,” Markkanen said of his final miss. “I’d made couple of shots before that, but it just didn’t go my way today.”

But, it’s what Markkanen did before the final possession that should be encouraging to Jazz fans.

The Jazz big man hit a nine-foot runner off an assist from Jordan Clarkson, knocked down a three with 1:03 left to play despite having missed his first six attempts of the game, and then hit a difficult 12-footer after creating space off the dribble with 36 seconds left to play.

At seven-feet tall, with his athleticism and shooting ability, Markkanen shouldn’t struggle to create shots for himself late, even if he hasn’t done it often in the NBA.

The Jazz’s third straight close loss was difficult, but Markkanen’s growth against the Kings was a promising sign.

Jazz Couldn’t Slow Sabonis

Markkanen will be competing with Domantas Sabonis for one of the final All-Star spots in the West this season and the Kings forward showed why on Friday night.

Sabonis made all 12 of his field goal attempts, including two three-point attempts as he finished with 28 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists.

It was a historic outing for Sabonis who became the first player since Wilt Chamberlain not to miss on at least 12 field goals, while also recording 11 or more rebounds and eight or more assists.

Sabonis and Chamberlain are the only two players in NBA history to record the feat. Chamberlain did it a remarkable three times.

Truthfully both Markkanen and Sabonis deserve All-Star nods this year, but the final vote may come down to elements outside of their control.

Markkanen will likely get a boost from coaches who vote for him to represent the Jazz with the game being hosted in Utah.

Sabonis could get the nod due to the Kings owning a superior record to the Jazz when voting concludes.

Jazz End Year Against Miami Heat

The Jazz now face a quick turnaround on Saturday night back in Salt Lake City when they host the Miami Heat.

Miami will also be on the second night of a back-to-back after falling to the Denver Nuggets on the road Friday 124-119.

The Heat and the Jazz find themselves on opposite ends of .500 records.

At 19-19, the Jazz have still outperformed expectations, despite their three-game losing streak. The Heat, who sit at 18-18, are one of the league’s more disappointing teams after entering the year with hopes of competing for a title.

Miami is 7-4 in their last 11 games and have climbed back up the standings, but still sit in the seventh seed in the East. If the current standings hold, Miami would have to win a play-in game to qualify for the postseason.

Tyler Herro scored 26 points to lead the Heat in their loss while Bam Adebayo added 22.

Utah Jazz vs. Miami Heat Broadcast

The Utah Jazz and the Miami Heat will tip off at 7 pm MT in Salt Lake City on Saturday. 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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Markkanen Heroics Not Enough To Slow Jazz Slide