It was looking like a rough night for the Utah Jazz when they were down double digits in the second, and 19 points at one point in the third, but they got the answer they needed in the youth that’s starting to really shine for the Jazz.
The first half was not going Utah’s way when a ruckus was started by Collin Sexton. 6’1” Collin Sexton drove the ball on the 7’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and Giannis acted like he took a right hook to the face and writhed on the floor, begging for a call. He was not given one because he, in fact, did not get hit. Sexton stood over him and gave a bull’s taunt and Malik Beasley ran and put a shoulder into Sexton. You can see the scuffle here.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was hit on the face which led to a scuffle between Collin Sexton and Malik Beasley pic.twitter.com/Yhu6EXHThb— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) February 5, 2024
It was clear that this put life into a Jazz team that has seemed on cruise control waiting for trade deadline. But even with this adrenaline boost, the Jazz needed more.
They got it from two of their young core of Walker Kessler and Keyonte George. Kessler played 26 minutes tonight and scored 13 points with 8 rebounds but it was his 3 blocks and defensive presence that helped start the run. Even during their last three losses, the Jazz were scoring at a decent level (#14 offense in the NBA in that stretch) but it was the defense that has really killed them (#30 defense in the NBA in that same stretch). Kessler came in and put a clamp down on the tired Bucks. Can Walker continue to improve in all aspects of his game? If he can, he looks like a player that could be a big part of what the Jazz do down the road.
The player that really put the Jazz over the top in the 4th was Keyonte George who had a mosnter game with 19 points, 10 rebounds(!!!), 2 assists, while shooting 7/13 from the floor and 5/9 from three. His monster play in the fourth helped put the Jazz over the top when they needed it.
Now, this all wouldn't have happened if Lauri Markkanen hadn’t had a night with 21 points and 3 rebounds, but Markkanen struggled in this one. That surge in the fourth, brought on by George and Kessler, pushed the Jazz to a win. Coach Hardy deserves a lot of credit also as he ran with the lineup that was working all the way to the win. Collin Sexton and Kris Dunn hardly played in the fourth and it’s that type of malleability that makes this Jazz team so hard to predict and why Hardy is one of those coaches that can win a game with on-court decisions.