Kessler’s Career Deaf Is Not Enough Jazz For Kings Fall To

SALT LAKE CITY – Walker Kessler scored 31 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Utah Jazz fell to the Sacramento Kings. 121-113.

Kessler added 11 rebounds, and freshman Ochai Agbaji scored 20 points in the loss.

The Kings were led by Kevin Huerter who scored 27 points.

Jazz without losing without losing

With the likelihood of a game-clinching game less nightly, losses are likely the best outcome for the Jazz the rest of the season.

And while the Jazz have dropped three straight games, helping them better position themselves for top-10 picks in June’s draft, the team isn’t wasting these learning opportunities.

With only eight games remaining, the Jazz were able to mail these contests, no longer having to worry about execution or staying competitive.

Instead, the Jazz have capitalized on these contests, giving their rookies room to prove they’re a rotation piece in high-leverage situations.

In the last four games, including Monday’s win over the Kings, the Jazz have had three of their rookie career highs.

Agbaji scored 27 points on Monday, while Simone Fontecchio added 26 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

On Saturday, it was Kessler’s turn to show he could be a serious offensive threat by scoring 31 points on a brilliant 14-16 shooting.

“I think the ball bounced our way tonight,” Kessler said of his career high. “I’m always going to play hard, so it just happened to go well tonight.”

Kessler is the first rookie in Jazz history to score 30 points and grab 10 rebounds in the same game, and the first rookie since 1998 to shoot 85 percent or better.

The Auburn product still doesn’t generate much offense with the ball in his hands, but his ability to move opponents up the floor and catch the ball in traffic will give him plenty of scoring opportunities.

As he further develops his touch around the rim, and expands his shooting beyond the perimeter, his role in the offense will grow.

The Jazz have been smart about how quickly they get the ball to their rookies as they look to remain competitive this season. Now, in the last 10 games of the season, they are reaping the rewards.

Looking at the Jazz Top 10 selection

Coming off a three-game losing streak, the Jazz’s chances of getting a top-10 pick in the draft continue to improve.

With the loss to the Kings, the Jazz now sit alone with the NBA’s ninth-worst record, a half-game worse than the inactive Chicago Bulls at 35-39.

The Jazz also got some help on Saturday, as the New Orleans Pelicans extended their winning streak to four with a win over the Los Angeles Clippers to move two games ahead of the Jazz in the Western Conference standings.

Utah is currently one game ahead of the 11th-ranked Dallas Mavericks and the 10th-ranked Oklahoma City Thunder, who are tied 36-38 in the West, with both teams owning the Jazz’s season tiebreakers.

The Mavericks have beaten the Jazz in three of their four meetings this season, with the Thunder beating the Jazz 2-1 in their last meeting on April 6 in Utah.

The surging Pelicans have the toughest remaining schedule in the Western Conference, but they should have a good chance to extend their winning streak to five when they travel to face the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.

Portland is 2.5 games behind the Jazz in the standings, though reports indicated that the Blazers are considering locking up All-Star Damian Lillard the rest of the season.

According to FiveThirtyEight, The Jazz are projected to win three more games this seasonFinishing with a 38-44 record, and what would be the ninth pick in the draft.

Utah Jazz Next Broadcast

The Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns will play in Salt Lake City on Monday at 7:00 p.m. The game will be televised and streamed on AT&T SportsNet 97.5 KSL Sports Zone. It can also be played DirecTV Stream and FuboTV.

Download the new and improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream radio stations, live videos and stay updated on your favorite bands.

Ben Anderson is KSL Sports’ Utah Jazz expert and host of Jake and Ben from 10-12 with Jake Scott. 97.5 KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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