Kenneth Lofton Jr. Carries Jazz Past Clippers

Apr 12, 2024, 11:41 PM | Updated: Apr 15, 2024, 2:29 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Kenneth Lofton Jr. scored a season-high 27 points as Utah Jazz surprised the Los Angeles Clippers with a 110-109 victory.

Lofton Jr. added nine rebounds and eight assists off the bench as the Jazz held off a second-half Clippers run.

The Jazz were far from perfect, turning the ball over 18 times and struggling to shoot the ball, but still found a way to win the game.

Related: Recapping Jazz Win Over Clippers

“To go into a game on the road and shoot 6-35 from three and still win, I think speaks to the the tenacity of the team tonight,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said.

The Clippers learned at halftime that they’d locked up the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs and rested the majority of their rotation over the final two periods.

Does Kenneth Lofton Jr. Have A Future With The Jazz?

Lofton Jr. played an integral role in each of the Jazz’s last two wins, scoring 14 points, grabbing nine rebounds, and handing out five assists in Thursday’s victory over the Houston Rockets.

“Kenny just seems to make sense when he plays,” Hardy said. “He passes when he should pass, shoots when he should shoot.”

Though the forward has a unique frame, his game resembles that of some of the more valuable big men across the league.

With a delicate shooting touch, a knack for passing the ball, and the ability to rebound, Lofton Jr.’s versatile skillset has shades of former Jazzman Kelly Olynyk who has been sorely missed in Utah since being moved at the trade deadline.

“We’ve had some bigs in the program that were really good passers and it’s just a different way to play,” Hardy added.

“I’m not sure we want to play that way the entire game, but when you’re built like we are, you want to have a variety of ways that you can attack on the offensive side. That’s how I like to play.”

Lofton Jr. signed a non-guaranteed three-year deal with Jazz in March. At the current stage of the team’s rebuild, no player is a lock to be on the roster next season, but with his strong play to close the year, the 21-year-old project might deserve a closer look.

Bad Win For Jazz Draft Hopes

While nothing will be finalized until Sunday evening, the Jazz’s win over the Clippers was potentially harmful to their first-round draft pick.

Teamed with a Brooklyn loss to the New York Knicks on Friday night and the Jazz sit just one game back of the Nets in the league standings.

If the Jazz were to beat the Golden State Warriors on the road on Sunday, and the Nets were to lose to the Philadelphia 76ers, the two teams would finish the season with equal 32-50 records.

Rather than owning the eighth-best odds (26.2 percent) of moving into the top four picks in the draft, the Jazz would split those percentages (23.2) with the Nets when the lottery balls are selected on May 12.

Worse yet, if neither team moves up in the lottery, a coin toss will decide which team drafts eighth, and which team drafts ninth in late June.

For a team that asked its fans to suffer through a stretch where it lost 24 of 27 games, hurting the team’s odds of adding a potential top-four pick for a few meaningless wins late in the season would be hard to justify.

Utah Jazz Next Game

The Jazz will face the Warriors on Sunday at 1:30 pm MST in San Francisco. The game will be televised on KJZZ, streamed on Jazz+, and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone.

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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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Kenneth Lofton Jr. Carries Jazz Past Clippers