Wednesday, March 29 2023
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The last time Lauri Markkanen was on the floor he was a split-second away from delivering a truly remarkable buzzer-beater. Having apparently learned his lesson, he made sure not to leave anything to chance on Thursday night against the Houston Rockets

Markkanen scored 18 points in the first quarter to help the Utah Jazz get out to an early lead, and neither he nor the team ever looked back. He finished with a career-high 49 points and eight rebounds on 15 of 27 from the field as the Jazz snapped a five-game losing streak with a 131-114 win over the Rockets. 

This was a truly complete offensive showing from Markkanen, who did a little bit of everything against a Rockets defense that, it must be said, was not always providing that much resistance. He knocked down six 3-pointers, threw down five dunks, hit some tough looks in the mid-range and was a perfect 13 of 13 from the free throw line. 

“Lauri’s done such a good job of continuing to work on different ways he can impact the game offensively,” Jazz head coach Will Hardy said. “Obviously he’s shown the ability to shoot the ball, but I think the physicality he’s played with — driving the ball, the physicality he’s played with as a screener, has given him an opportunity to score in a variety of ways. He’s finding a way to get to the free throw line a lot because of that physicality. Any time you see guys have big scoring nights in the NBA, a lot of times there’s a lot of free throws involved in that.”

Markkanen is the sixth player in Jazz franchise history to record a 49-point game, and the first to do so since Donovan Mitchell in 2020. He also became the 34th different player to score at least 40 points this season, and the 18th different player to do it since Christmas in what has been an incredible league-wide scoring binge. For comparison, 10 years ago there were just 14 40-point scorers in the entire 2012-13 season. 

When the Jazz traded Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers last summer, Markkanen was something of an afterthought in the deal. A few months later he’s the new face of the franchise in Utah. After his career night he’s putting up 24.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game on 53.0/42.2/87.7 shooting splits. He’s 18th in the league in scoring, has a legitimate chance to join the vaunted 50/40/90 club and may even make his first All-Star Game appearance when Salt Lake City plays host next month. 



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