What a difference having your best playing makes? In his return to the lineup after illness, Lauri Markkanen had a big impact again with 19 points and 11 rebounds. His impact can be seen more in his +23 for the game. With Markkanen on the floor, the Jazz had a go-to scoring option again that put everything back into place. Markkanen’s size could be felt on the defensive end, and she imposed his will on offense.
Having Mike Conley back in the starting lineup had a huge impact too. Conley was slinging it from the start and ended the game with 7 points and 6 assists. The thing is, even though those numbers don’t seem all that impressive, his presence at the point raises the ceiling to another level. Conley makes the right play every time, and it sets everyone else up to succeed. If he can stay healthy, don’t be surprised if the Jazz continue to roll through the end of the year.
What’s crazy was those two players weren’t the players of the game. Jarred Vanderbilt and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
Jarred Vanderbilt had his best game of the season with 18 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 assists. His near triple was dominant and was a major part of both the offense and defense. Utah held the Pelicans to just 100 points for the game, an impressive feat considering the Pelicans were #1 in the West coming into this game.
Probably the best story for the Jazz was Nickeil Alexander-Walker. NAW was brilliant tonight in his time on the floor. Going 7/10 from the field and 4/6 from three, NAW scored 19 points with 6 assists and 3 rebounds. It might also be time to get excited a little bit. In the three games before this, two of them starts, NAW averaged 16.3 points, 3.3 assists, and 4.7 rebounds. That’s while shooting 58% from the field and 55% from three. He obviously won’t keep up those numbers, but NAW is looking more and more comfortable. When the Jazz got him in the Ingles trade, their hope was that they could develop him into the potential many saw when he first came into the league. It looks like that may be happening. If it does, this Utah Jazz team has yet another weapon going forward. When he plays like this, it’s hard to even remember that Collin Sexton didn’t play. What a luxury for Coach Hardy!