Lauri Markkanen had 28 points and 13 rebounds and Mike Conley added a three-point game and two clutch free throws in the final minutes to lead the Utah Jazz to a 131-128 win over the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.
“I take my time, have a little more patience, don’t just go straight away and I’m a little stronger with the ball,” said Markkanen of the strong finish against the physical Raptors after a slow start.
Conley, who had 19 points and eight assists, drew Pascal Siakam’s sixth foul on a header foul and completed a three-point play to give the Jazz a 120-113 lead by 2:13.
“[Siakam] accomplished but I was able to finish it. It really was the best of both worlds. It was a big game and I think it gave us enough momentum to finish the game,” said Conley.
VanVleet kept the Raptors close with his three-point shooting, but Toronto couldn’t finish the comeback.
“When we have a three lead at the end of the night a lot of those stats look a lot better. We would celebrate … we just have to find ways to win and that’s really all that matters,” VanVleet said.
CLOCK | Markkanen, Kessler lead as Jazz beats Raptors:
Conley hit two free throws by 12.2 seconds to seal the win and the Jazz moved 27-26 over .500.
“Mike has been such a stabilizing force for us late in the games. He and I have developed very good communication about what we want to do and he does a good job of communicating that to the team and organizing it. His decision-making is in the great late games,” said Utah coach Will Hardy.
Jordan Clarkson scored seven of his 23 points in the Finals 1:39 and Walker Kessler added 17 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocked shots, a career-high for Utah, who have won five of their last seven games.
“[Kessler] Got seven blocks tonight and I don’t know how many more it’s affected. At some point the guys just stopped responding to him,” said Markkanen.
Siakam scored 21 points before fouling, Gary Trent Jr. had 20 points and the Raptors stayed in the game with a season-high 25 offensive rebounds.
Kessler had the best six blocked shots of the NBA season in the first quarter, tying the franchise record set by Mark Eaton on February 18, 1989 against San Antonio. Eaton had six blocks in both the second and fourth quarters and 14 total in the game.
VanVleet had his first career triple-double last season (37 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds) against the Jazz on Jan. 7.
The Jazz showed his youth at times — failing to box for rebounds, turning the ball around and slowly getting back on defense, resulting in 28 fast break points for Toronto.
Malik Beasley had four 3s and all 14 of his points in the first half as the Jazz led by as much as 14 points. The Raptors narrowed to 65-60 at the break thanks to 15 points fewer than Utah’s 11 turnovers. Toronto only had two giveaways and 15 offensive rebounds in the same span.
The Raptors continue their seven-game journey — their longest since 2007 — Friday in Houston