Markkanen has 31 points and 12 boards as Jazz roll to 130-118 win, handing Spurs 5th straight loss

Utah Jazz's Lauri Markkanen, center, is defended by San Antonio Spurs' Tre Jones, right, and Keldon Johnson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2023, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate) (Darren Abate, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – Lauri Markkanen had 31 points and 12 rebounds, and the Utah Jazz overcame a slow start to beat the San Antonio Spurs 130-118 on Tuesday night.

Jordan Clarkson added 24 points and eight assists, Collin Sexton had 20 points and Walker Kessler scored 11 for Utah.

Recommended Videos

Sexton’s points included a bounce pass to himself for a 360-degree dunk off a turnover in the opening minute of the second half.

“I was wide open, so I was just like, ‘Oh well, I’ll try it,’” Sexton said. “Have some fun. I felt like just having fun. I felt like that was something that sparked the momentum, sparked a run. Just the energy plays that’s needed.”

The play impressed and concerned Utah coach Will Hardy.

“I don’t know what on Earth would make him try that,” Hardy said, “but I also think the fact he’s 6-foot-1 and pulled that off is wild to me.”

Keldon Johnson led San Antonio with 26 points, Devin Vassell had 22, Jeremy Sochan added 19 and Victor Wembanyama had 15.

The Spurs (4-25) have lost five straight since snapping a franchise-worst 18-game losing streak.

“We’re still searching for consistency,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “We’re not consistent offensively or defensively. We go in spurts and really haven’t matured enough to understand that winning an NBA game is difficult and calls for consistency.”

The Jazz (13-18) have won three in a row and six of eight after starting the season 2-7.

Wembanyama returned after missing two of the past three games with a right ankle injury. He was scheduled to play Saturday in Dallas but stepped on a ball boy during warmups and was held out as a precaution.

Wembanyama was 6 for 15 from the field and had seven rebounds, five blocks and four assists in 25 minutes.

San Antonio brought Johnson, a longtime starter, off the bench for the second time this season and the change contributed to a 15-point lead in the first quarter.

“The thing that’s most impressive to me is that (the Spurs) are relentless with their pace,” Hardy said. “How hard they push the ball in transition after makes and misses. I think it caught our team off guard. No matter how much you talk about it, you can’t simulate that stuff in practice.”

Starting in place of Johnson, Julian Champagnie had eight points in the first two minutes. He opened with a 3-pointer off a feed from Wembanyama and soared for a dunk on Sochan’s assist.

Champagnie finished with 16 points.

“That’s his best quality. That’s what he does,” Popovich said.

San Antonio opened 6 for 7 on 3-pointers in building a 28-15 lead eight minutes into the game. The Spurs finished 16 for 35 on 3s.

That fast start dissipated as Utah went on a 23-9 run bridging the first and second quarters. Clarkson capped the spurt with a pair of free throws as the Jazz captured their first lead at 38-37 with eight minutes remaining in the first half.

Markkanen and Clarkson combined for 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting in the second quarter.

It was another successful return for Clarkson to his hometown. He entered the game averaging 16.7 points in 26 games against the Spurs.

“Been known as a scorer his whole career,” Hardy said. “I think the last year and a half he’s made a really diligent effort to try be a better playmaker and he’s done a great job. Jordan has that ability, not just as a player, but as a person — he brings energy to the room whenever he’s in it.”

The Spurs have the worst record in the Western Conference and are second-worst in the NBA to the Detroit Pistons (2-28), who have lost 27 straight games — a single-season record.


Jazz: At New Orleans on Thursday.

Spurs: At Portland on Thursday.



Recommended Videos