Despite many Utah Jazz fans hoping their team will tank, Will Hardy and his players continue to refuse.
The Jazz hosted the Western Conference’s third-ranked team, the Sacramento Kings, on Monday night. Utah was without star forward Lauri Markkanen and starters Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton. Despite the injuries, the Jazz took charge of the game immediately. They dominated the first quarter to the tune of 40-19. Ochai Agbaji and Simone Fontecchio were hitting threes, the team was sharing the ball, and Walker Kessler was locking down the paint.
The Kings began to find their rhythm in the second quarter, but the Jazz kept their lead at a safe distance. De’Aaron Fox led the charge for Sacramento, while the Jazz maintained a balanced offense. Kelly Olynyk, Talen Horton-Tucker, and Kriss Dunn all made significant contributions.
The third quarter is when the Kings showed how good they could be. The threes were falling in bunches, especially by rookie Keegan Murray. Sacramento stormed back into the game with a 43-27 beatdown in the third.
The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair punctuated by clutch threes and big blocks. Walker Kessler’s defense was a huge key for the Jazz, especially on star big man Domantas Sabonis. The Jazz were getting help from everywhere. Even Udoka Azubuike played some crucial minutes and helped the Jazz retake the lead. Ochai Agbaji played with more confidence than he’s shown most of the season, and the Jazz were able to pull away late.
Player of the Game
Ochai Agbaji had the best game of his young career, with 27 points (57/60/100 shooting splits), five rebounds, three assists, and a big block. Agbaji looked like a scorer tonight. He was dribbling right up into threes, taking rhythm shots off movement, and actively seeking his shots. For the second game in a row, Agbaji’s shooting has come up clutch for the Jazz. And he got to do it all in front of his family.
Honorable mentions to Kelly Olynyk (19 points, ten rebounds, eight assists), Kris Dunn (18 points, ten assists), Walker Kessler (ten points, eight rebounds, five blocks), and Udoka Azubuike (13 points, eight rebounds, 100% FG).
Utah is now 35-36, tied for 8th in the Western Conference. They are only three games back from the fourth seed and only four games ahead of the 13th seed. The West is wild.