The Utah Jazz dismantled the Indiana Pacers, 139-119, Friday night and extended their winning streak to two games. The score isn’t an indication of how dominant the Jazz was, as the Pacers were doomed before they left the locker room.
Lauri Markkanen led the charge by scoring 24 points, snapping 13 boards and dropping three dimes with a steal. Markkanen received ample support from rookie teammate Walker Kessler with 20 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and an assist. A total of six Jazzmen scored in double digits.
This was a quality win for Utah since Indiana is the fifth-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, and this level of competition proves the Jazz are not a tanking team. The Pacers placed seven players in double figures, led by center Myles Turner with 18 points.
The win takes Utah’s overall record to 14-11 while improving on a respectable 8-3 home record at Vivint Smart Arena. The Jazz are currently the sixth-ranked team in the Western Conference.
As I said earlier, wins pile up quickly and so do losses, so Jazz Nation should stay neutral. The end result is retaining a ticket into the post-season competition and if the season ended today the Jazz would have an opportunity to contend for a championship.
What did we learn from Friday night’s action? Here are my key takeaways after jazz wiped out the Pacers.
The value of Markkanen continues to rise
Markkanen’s stock continues to climb at an insanely fast pace. If his game remains consistent, he has a legitimate claim to the NBA’s Most Improved Player award and a possible invite to the NBA All-Star Game, which is being played in Salt Lake City.
The Pacers had no answer to Markkanen and company and seemed overwhelmed as the Jazz got their way all night. As the competition progressed, the Pacers’ body language looked defeated, leading to them quickly boarding the Utah crew plane.
Kessler becomes a starter
Kessler helped break the Pacers’ will to even enter the competition. Pacers center Myles Turner and his teammates appeared content to receive contractually guaranteed funds because they simply didn’t have a chance of winning that game.
I was a bit surprised at how easily the Jazz controlled the game against a playoff-caliber opponent, but Kessler’s game gave his team a vacation recipe as to why he can’t be kept out of the starting lineup much longer. He will be an excellent defensive anchor for the new look Jazz.
What it means
The Jazz hit their season-high for points with 139 against the Pacers. Most of the Jazzmen played and contributed to the win.
There’s not much time to celebrate as the Portland Trail Blazers will be in town on Saturday night while the Jazz prepare for season. Look for the Jazz contributing to his winning steak and stay in the postseason picture.
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