On a day where the Utah Jazz celebrated star Lauri Markkanen, Western Conference Player of the Week aware, they continued to show that they are a force to be reckoned with against the Indiana Pacers. defeating them 132-105. Utah came into into this game newly over .500 and on a 5 game win streak. That streak now continues into 6 and Jazz stand at 22-20 on the season, an impressive turnaround as we approach the All-Star break.
A 7-16 start to the first half of the season. A 14-4 close to the first 41 games. A bunch of optimism and resilience. These are the Utah Jazz at the midway point of the schedule. What lies ahead? That's the fascinating part. The story, is here - https://t.co/51PiVKpUqy— Tony Jones (@Tjonesonthenba) January 15, 2024
The Utah Jazz were led by a few familiar faces on this streak, All-Star Lauri Markkanen and the up-start Collin Sexton. Both handled most of the offensive load, with Markkanen playing aggressively and putting up 32 points along with 10 rebounds. Sexton went berserk as well adding another 30 points and providing the energy spark the Jazz needed all game long.
Utah also received strong contributions from a couple of bench guys, with Jordan Clarkson (as always) adding 17 points, though he struggled from the three-point line. Keyonte George is starting to find his shot as well, chipping in 19 points with 3 three-pointers and 5 assists.
After keeping it close for most of the first half, the Jazz came out of the half and really stepped on the gas during the third quarter. The Pacers threw in the white flag early and mostly played their young guys throughout the 2nd half.
The Pacers were a bit shorthanded, with the continued absence of budding superstar Tyrese Haliburton. They also missed the all-around contributions of Bruce Brown, who was out with knee issues. Aaron Nesmith also missed the game with a shin injury. While not shooting nearly as well as they have all season (the Pacers have the #1 offense in the entire NBA), Buddy Hield led all scorers with 14 points and 3-5 from the three point line. Andrew Nembhard, starting in place of Haliburton, contributed another 14 with Myles Turner also adding some quality minutes and 12 points. Indiana saw some quality minutes from young rookie forward Jarace Walker, who has not seen many minutes this year and played a lot of the 4th quarter with other young guys like Oscar Tshiebwe, Jordan Nwora, Ben Sheppard, and Kendall Brown.
The story of this game (and really, the story of this win streak) has been the complete 180 this team has done since tweaking the starting lineup. Collin Sexton has been a man on a mission...unstoppable at times. After a frustrating start to his season, it’s an understatement to say that this Sexton came out of nowhere. He may be playing himself into the long-term plan of this Utah Jazz team.
Where were you when Collin Sexton turned into Allen Iverson?— Tony Jones (@Tjonesonthenba) January 16, 2024
The question now becomes...is this Jazz team legit? I would argue that they have put up some quality wins over some difficult competition in Milwaukee, Denver, and even Philadelphia. While some of those teams were without star players, the Jazz aren’t just squeaking these games out. They are blowing these teams out. It’s getting harder and harder to deny that this team could be playoff-caliber and are figuring out things before our eyes.
The Utah Jazz will attempt to extend this win streak with a homestead against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday and a quick turnaround to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday. Thursday’s game against the Thunder could prove to be one of the more telling matchups of the season. If they can handle a true Western Conference powerhouse, that may say all we need to know about this dramatic midseason turnaround.