Athletic Rookie Continues To Earn Minutes With Utah Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY – Ochai Agbaji didn’t let a series of games without an appearance early in the season get him down. That attitude is paying off now.
The Jazz (23-24) returned home to take on the Los Angeles Clippers (23-23) at Vivint Arena on Wednesday, January 18.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) January 19, 2023
During the third quarter, Agbaji cut along the baseline, creating a passing lane for Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson’s pass was slightly off line, but the uber-athletic forward adjusted, made the catch and laid it in, all in one motion.
The rookie out of Kansas has four points, three rebounds, an assist and a block in 13 minutes against the Clippers. For the season, Agbaji has averages of 4.1 points and 1.4 rebounds per game.
Utah has led from the jump against a depleted Clippers team. The Jazz hold a 95-81 lead after three quarters.
All-Star Hopeful Lauri Markkanen Returns
Markkanen is in the midst of the breakout season with the Jazz averaging 24.6 points per game and 8.6 rebounds.
The Finnish big man appears poised to earn his first All-Star nod and has helped keep the Jazz relevant in the Western Conference Playoff chase.
But even without Markkanen over the last two games, the Jazz competed well against two formidable opponents.
UPDATED Jazz Injury Report (as of 1/18):
*AVAILABLE – Lauri Markkanen (left hip contusion)
OUT – Kelly Olynyk (left ankle sprain)
OUT – Johnny Juzang (G League – Two-Way)
OUT – Micah Potter (G League – Two-Way)
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) January 18, 2023
On Friday, the team narrowly lost to the Philadelphia 76ers 118-117 in Salt Lake City before beating the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Monday.
Rookie Walker Kessler had the best game of his career with 20 points, 21 rebounds, and four assists in the Jazz 126-125 victory. Fellow rookie Ochai Agbai chipped in 17 points, while Clarkson led all Jazz scorers with 21.
While Markkanen has been upgraded to available, veteran big man Kelly Olynyk remains sidelined with an ankle injury.
Clippers On Back-To-Back
The Clippers traveled to Utah on the second half of back-to-back games after facing the 76ers Tuesday night with several key players missing from the roster.
In addition to Leonard and George, the Clippers will be without Luke Kennard, John Wall, and Moses Brown against the Jazz.
Spearheaded by Leonard and George, Los Angeles has been one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA this season. Just past the midway point of the season, the Clippers sit at .500 with their most daunting stretch of the schedule on the horizon.
Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Luke Kennard, John Wall and Moses Brown (G League) are all out tonight in Utah.
Ivica Zubac (left knee contusion) is listed as questionable.
— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) January 18, 2023
After falling to Philadelphia on Tuesday, the Clippers play 10 of their next 11 games on the road, beginning with the Jazz on Wednesday night.
Thought to be one of the favorites to come out of the West, the Clippers are just 2-8 in their last ten games and have the second-toughest remaining strength of schedule in the NBA.
LA would fall behind the Jazz in the standings with a loss Wednesday night.
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