Markkanen Has Bizarre Scoring Night, Pushes Jazz Past Magic

Jan 13, 2023, 10:45 PM | Updated: Jan 14, 2023, 9:29 am

SALT LAKE CITY – Walker Kessler hit two clutch free throws while Lauri Markkanen made the game-saving block as the Utah Jazz downed the Orlando Magic 112-108.

The clutch plays marked a swap in roles in the final seconds of the game to earn the Jazz the victory after Markkanen had made a living at the foul line throughout the night while Kessler controlled the paint defensively.

With the win, the Jazz climbed to the eighth seed in the West ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Phoenix Suns.

Markkanen Has Historic Scoring Night Against Magic

Markkanen has made a habit of going to the free-throw line over the Jazz’s last seven games. The All-Star hopeful has now shot 12 or more free throws in five of his last seven games. That ties the number of times he’d attempted double-digit free throws over the first 281 games of his career prior to joining the Jazz.

Against the Magic, Markkanen set a new personal best for makes and attempts knocking down 17-21 freebies.

“He’s just done a tremendous job of not shying away from the contact,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “It’s been a huge thing for him being our number one guy and understanding that your life can’t be all jump shots.”

The forward’s sudden infatuation with the foul line has made him a lethal scorer, even on nights when he isn’t shooting well. Against Orlando, Markkanen shot just 4-13 from the floor, didn’t make a field goal after the first quarter, and was still the games leading scorer with 28 points.

“I’ve just been physical going to the rim aggressively and trying to go dunk everything,” Markkanen said. “I’m trying to dunk everything and I’ll get some calls.”

Markkanen is now tied for the third-highest-scoring game in NBA history while making four field goals or fewer with only Sleepy Floyd (30) and Chauncey Billups (30, 29) having scored more.

The Finnish big man placed himself in elite company among Jazz players historically.

Markkanen’s 21 free throw attempts are the most by a Jazz player since Karl Malone did it in 2003, while his 17 makes are the most since Deron Williams in 2008.

Yes, Walker Kessler Is Calling Out The Jazz Defense

After Wednesday’s win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, former Jazzman Donovan Mitchell pulled Walker Kessler aside and told him he was calling out the Jazz’s defensive coverages, making it easier for him to attack offensively.

“I said that’s as you play guys who shoot threes off the dribble, they’re going to go at you,” Mitchell said. “Don’t tell them the answer to the exam.”

Before facing the Magic, Hardy discussed Kessler’s communication on defense and explained that the rookie was doing exactly what was asked of him.

“When you’re guarding the ball you don’t know who’s coming behind you whether you’re trying to switch under the screen or trying to pursue over the top,” Hardy said. “So that guy needs to know what the coverage is.”

Mitchell matched his regular season career-high in a Jazz uniform with 46 points, but that doesn’t mean Kessler did anything wrong.

“I actually spoke with Donovan about this after the game he was telling me about his conversation with Walker and he’s not wrong that it did tip him off to what was going on,” Hardy admitted. “But we’re at a different stage with Walker and with our team in terms of like — we need to just make sure that we know what we’re doing before we try to disguise from the other team.”

Markkanen’s defensive communication didn’t hinder his performance against the Magic.

The rookie big man finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, and a career-high seven blocks.

Jazz Face Quick Turnaround Against 76ers

The Jazz now have a quick turnaround as they prepare to face the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night, once again in Salt Lake City.

Philadelphia is in Utah on the first stop of a five-game road trip, looking to avenge an embarrassing loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night.

The Thunder beat the 76ers 133-114 thanks to 37 points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Philly was led by Joel Embiid who scored 30 points on 10-17 shooting to go with 10 rebounds.

Embiid had a historic performance against the Jazz the last time these two teams faced off in Philadelphia.

The 76ers superstar scored a career-high 59 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, dished out eight assists, and blocked seven shots to become the first player in NBA history to record those stats in a single game.

Philadelphia outscored the Jazz by 25 in Embiid’s 37 minutes, and were outscored by 18 in the eight minutes he was on the bench.

Of Embiid’s 59 points, 20 came from the free-throw on an eye-popping 24 attempts.

Even with Thursday’s loss, the 7ers have been one of the league’s best teams over the last month and a half. Philadelphia is 13-4 in their last 17 games and own the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Jazz Next Broadcast

The Utah Jazz and Philadelphia 76ers will tip off at 7 pm MT on Saturday night. 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.

Ben Anderson is the KSL Sports insider for the Utah Jazz and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Markkanen Has Bizarre Scoring Night, Pushes Jazz Past Magic