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Markkanen and Kessler lift Jazz past Magic

Behind Markkanen’s offense and Kessler’s defense the Jazz rose to the occasion

Orlando Magic v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Another night, another close game for the Utah Jazz. Tonight, behind the scoring of Lauri Markkanen and the defense of Walker Kessler, the Jazz edged out the Orlando Magic 112-108.

A really promising trend for Lauri Markkanen is starting to unfold. His shot tonight wasn’t falling inside, but it didn’t matter. Markkanen took 21 free throws tonight ... 21! He was relentlessly driving to the rim, putting pressure on the defense, and the Magic’s undersized defenders would constantly put him on the line instead of give up the easy bucket. This ability for Markkanen to get to the free throw line is massive because it means that even if his shot isn’t falling, he will still be a highly efficient scorer. The Jazz have found a star for the future.

Walker Kessler remains one of the biggest steals in the Rudy Gobert trade. Added as a throw-in, Kessler is doing a really good job of replacing the former Jazz center. In the first half alone, Kessler had 5 blocks and 7 total for the game. He also grabbed 13 points, and 9 rebounds, including an enormous rebound after Collin Sexton missed 2 big free throws at the end of the game to seal it. Kessler looks like a future DPOY at center and has soft hands and touch around the rim. He also looks like a dominant rebounder and could be a force for the Jazz for years to come. Every time you think he’s about to hit a rookie wall, he gets better.

Finally, the Jazz don’t win this without Collin Sexton, who had a great night. Sexton was 7/12 from the field and 23 from three, with a monster shot at the end of the game to put this one away. Sexton has flaws, often getting tunnel vision on offense, but he brings a lot to the table with his intensity. Whatever game it is, whatever night, you know that Sexton will bring 110% energy, and those are the types of guys you want on the floor when things go bad.