UTAH JAZZ

Walker Kessler Blocks Heat All-Star Twice In One Possession

Dec 31, 2022, 7:43 PM

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Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler (24) dunks over New York Knicks center Jericho Sims (45) in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. The Knicks won 113-104. (Courtesy of Deseret News)

(Courtesy of Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Jazz rookie center Walker Kessler showed why he has so much potential in the NBA as a shot blocker against the Miami Heat on Saturday.

In the final two minutes of the first quarter, Walker Kessler blocked a dunk attempt by Miami Heat all-star center Bam Adebayo. After Adebayo collected the offensive rebound, he attempted a seven-foot jumper, which Kessler blocked.

The Jazz held a 25-24 lead over the Heat at that time. Through the first quarter, Kessler had four points, four rebounds, and two blocks in seven minutes.

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.

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Walker Kessler Blocks Heat All-Star Twice In One Possession