Down 17 points midway through the third quarter, the Jazz played their most impressive quarter-and-a-half of basketball this season to earn their second straight win. In a statement performance, Lauri Markkanen led the Jazz with 30 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. Jordan Clarkson returned from injury with an efficient 30 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists.
In the first three-quarters of the game, Utah offered a layup line to Toronto. Scottie Barns, who had an impressive stat-line of 32 points, 14 rebounds, and 7 assists, scored a career-high 17 points in the first quarter. Given that the Jazz started Kelly Olynyk and John Collins in the front court, this wasn’t much of a surprise. Olynyk is a faux point guard for Utah – he dished out 7 assists tonight and initiated much of the offense in the first half. However, against athletic wings (of which Toronto has many), he struggles to make an impact on defense. Collins, for his part, is often times simply outsized as a center and failed to provide much rim protection tonight.
And truthfully, part of Utah’s struggles in the first half were self inflicted. Walker Kessler only played six minutes in the first half, all while Utah was allowing easy looks at the rim. The Jazz allowed 12 points off of turnovers, mostly in transition. And they were out rebounded 23-16 to a Toronto team with only one person above 6’9” in their rotation.
But to Utah’s credit, they didn’t quit after falling down 17. Markkanen had his most impressive collective performance of the season, scoring efficiently, passing well, and playing disruptive defense. Clarkson, who had missed previous six games, scored 21 points in the second half to help will Utah back into the game. Both Walker Kessler and Ochai Agbaji played nearly the entire fourth quarter and made a serious impact on defense. Together, the Jazz outscored the Raptors 41-21 in the fourth quarter.
But the an unsung hero of Utah’s win was Kris Dunn. The only true point guard on the roster, Dunn offered poise in the second half. He had yet another near triple-double with 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists. While Dunn has his limitations, he’s remains Utah’s best two-way option at the point moving forward.
The Jazz will continue their road-trip against the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 26 at 6 p.m.