Kessler Career-High Helps Jazz Rally In Toronto

Feb 10, 2023, 9:07 PM
Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler dunks...
Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler dunks (Credit: Ryan Sun, Deseret News)
(Credit: Ryan Sun, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz offense found its groove late in the fourth quarter and stunned the Toronto Raptors with a 122-116 victory.

The Jazz trailed by 13 midway through the fourth but played nearly perfect basketball down the stretch to escape with a rare road win.

Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler scored 23 points each while Collin Sexton added 22 as the Jazz earned their first win in the post-Mike Conley era.

Frontcourt, Sexton Carry Jazz

The Jazz fell behind 111-98 with 5:17 left in the fourth quarter and looked dead to rights after a Pascal Siakam jump shot.

Toronto had repeatedly withstood small Jazz runs throughout the game and was able to keep their lead near double-digits for most of the second half.

But after struggling to find an offensive rhythm against the Raptors’ defense for the first 43 minutes of the game, the Jazz turned to Markkanen, Kessler, and Kelly Olynyk and quickly erased the Toronto lead.

The frontcourt trio scored 10 of the Jazz’s next 12 points and cut the Raptors’ lead from 13 to three in just over two minutes of game time.

The big lineup helped the Jazz outscore Toronto 39-20 in the fourth quarter including 22-5 in the final 5:17 as the team won the game going away.

It was an impressive showing for a Jazz roster that was having to learn to execute in a close game without Conley for the first time since trading him to Minnesota on Wednesday.

The Jazz turned to a lineup of Sexton, Markkanen, Olynyk, Kessler, and Talen Horton-Tucker to close the game and scored on their final 11 possessions of the night.

Sexton had one of his most complete performances of the season with 22 points, matching his personal best in a Jazz uniform while adding five rebounds, and six assists.

The guard shot an efficient 8-14 from the floor and 6-7 from the free-throw line in 37 minutes on the court.

Kessler’s 23 points were a new career-high as the Raptors repeatedly allowed the rookie center to outrun them in transition, sky for alley-oop dunks, and catch easy dump-off passes in the paint.

The Auburn product shot 10-12 from the floor to go with nine rebounds in 33 minutes.

Markkanen meanwhile was forced to assume the role of distributor without Conley on the floor and matched his season-high with five assists to go with nine rebounds and 23 points on 9-20 shooting.

The All-Star big man has proven to be one of the most dynamic offensive players in the league, but his passing has left room for improvement this season.

If Markkanen can consistently up his assist numbers like he did against the Raptors he can help the Jazz maintain their top-five-ranked offense even without a true floor-general point guard.

Conley Makes Debut In Minnesota

Just 48 hours after he was traded to the Timberwolves, Mike Conley was in the starting lineup for Minnesota against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Conley had a solid outing in his Timberwolves debut scoring nine points and handing out three assists while committing three turnovers in 25 minutes.

Minnesota was playing without Karl Anthony-Towns (calf) and D’Angelo Russell who was shipped out in Wednesday’s trade and had to play significant minutes without the benefit of a full practice.

The Grizzlies ran away with an easy 128-107 victory as the Timberwolves are now 4-4 in their last eight games.

Jazz Face Knicks On Back-To-Back

The Jazz now face the Knicks on Saturday night with both teams on the second night of back-to-back games.

The Knicks had won two straight and three out of four before falling to the Philadelphia 76ers on the road 119-108 on Friday.

New York sits in the seventh seed in the East just behind the Miami Heat for the sixth and final guaranteed playoff spot in the conference.

The Knicks added guard Josh Hart from the Portland Trail Blazers at Thursday’s deadline in exchange for little-used Cam Reddish, Ryan Arcidiacono, Svi Mykhailiuk, and a lottery-protected first-round pick.

The Knicks are expected to see Hart make his debut on Saturday, while the Jazz could have both Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones in uniform.

The two new Jazzmen joined the team in New York after clearing physicals early Friday.

“They’ll both have opportunities for them to get to know us and us to get to know them and see how we can help,” Jazz general manager Justin Zanik said. “[We will] see if there’s an environment here where there’s something going forward.”

Toscano-Anderson averaged 2.7 points and 2.0 rebounds in 30 appearances with the Los Angeles Lakers this season while Jones added 2.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in 22 games.

The Jazz fell to the Knicks 118-111 in November despite 27 points from Kelly Olynyk. Jalen Brunson scored 25 points and had eight assists for the Knicks.

Jazz Next Broadcast

The Utah Jazz and New York Knicks will tip off at 5:30 pm MT 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.

Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports 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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Kessler Career-High Helps Jazz Rally In Toronto