by Alma Bean
Feature Image: Photo by Spenser Heaps of Deseret News.
The Utah Jazz (19-20) takes on the Sacramento Kings (19-16) in their first game of the new year looking to avoid a five-game losing streak.
King of the Crop
Utah’s first quarter didn’t start off the best. Though Utah was only down by four points before their first timeout, it looked as if Jarred Vanderbilt (14/9/2) was running across the floor to pick up anyone on defense. Switching from backcourt to frontcourt, Vanderbilt’s consistent change on defense led to multiple openings for Sacramento. The paint was practically wide open for Sacramento shooting 7/11 (63.6%) while threes were a little hard to come by. Neither team shot better than 40 percent from the perimeter with Sacramento having the better quarter from beyond shooting 5/13 (38.5%). Sacramento even started an uphill battle for Utah by having a 19-3 run along with forcing five turnovers. These monstrous number led to a comfortable lead for Sacramento to end the quarter 35-23.
In the second quarter, Utah managed to make some improvements within the perimeter. Shooting 8/14 (57.1%) within the perimeter, Utah matched their three-point attempts and makes with 3/11 (27.3%) from beyond. Sacramento, just like their previous meeting, fed the hot hand in Kevin Huerter (16/4/1) who had 14 points in the first half. Domantas Sabonis (21/14/8) was already on triple double watch by halftime with a 13/8/4 stat line. Having these players being practically unstoppable in the first half, Utah still managed to fight an uphill battle going into the half trailing 60-51.
The Finnisher of the North
For the third quarter, Utah came back on the court with vengeance. Surprise to most, Utah even had a defensive stop in transition catching most of the crowd off guard. Utah looked to have struggled at the start of the quarter, but after letting Sacramento get out to a 12-point lead, Utah fought back. Taking nearly the entirety of the quarter, that deficit was depleted with 35 seconds left tying the score 86-86. Malik Beasley (16/6/2) created momentum going into the final quarter by draining a three with six seconds left. That brought the final score for the third quarter to 89-88.
Utah went back to their tendencies from the three-point line in the final quarter. Shooting 3/11 (27.3%) from the perimeter, Utah had to solve their shooting woes by searching for closer shots. With yet another lackluster perimeter shooting quarter, Utah shot 7/9 (77.8%) within the paint. Utah wasn’t the only ones struggling from the perimeter as Sacramento went 1/6 (16.7%) but also focused on the interior shooting 11/13 (84.6%). Sacramento put all their chips in on De’Aaron Fox (37/3/6), who scored 22 points in the fourth quarter. Utah went and put their chips in on Lauri Markkanen (28/8/1) especially in the final minute of the game.
In the final minute, Sacramento led 111-109 after a bank shot from Jordan Clarkson (24/3/2). Fox didn’t let the basket distract him as he responded with a dunk on the other end. Utah was given a gift from KZ Okpala (2 steals) as he committed a foul away from the play resulting in a Clarkson free throw to bring the score 113-110 and Utah ball. Clarkson was able to get an open three-point shot but missed. Kelly Olynyk (5/6/4) was able to get the offensive rebound and pass to Mike Conley (18/1/7) and drove to the basket for a contested layup. In an effort to eat up the clock, Fox waited 18 seconds before pulling up for a jump shot to put Sacramento up 115-112 with 23 seconds left. Utah progressed the ball to midcourt with a timeout and the inbound pass went to Markkanen. Markkanen went for a quick turnaround three and was fouled by Keegan Murray (16/5/1). After three clutch free throws from Markkanen to tie the game 115-115 with 16 seconds left in the game, Sacramento had the ability to put the game away with a bucket. Fox nearly used the remaining 16 seconds before driving to the basket putting Sacramento up 117-115 with 0.4 seconds left.
Neither team had any timeouts or fouls to give so Vanderbilt was put in a sticky situation. Vanderbilt inbounding the ball and having to go the full length of the court was the only option to give Utah a shot at winning. Vanderbilt threw the ball in like an elite quarterback to Markkanen and managed to get a three-point shot off to win the game. As the crowd roared with excitement, the referees went to the monitor to see if the ball was released before the buzzer sounded. The call on the floor was a three-point bucket that was scored. Before a conclusion was made, the shot value was deemed a two-point shot rather than a three-point shot. The fans began to boo after seeing a replay showing Markkanen’s foot behind the perimeter line. Those boos were followed with more uproar when the replay showed Markkanen was about 0.1 second late on getting the shot off. This replay was followed by Fox’s previous bucket showing the ball cleared the net with 0.6 seconds rather than 0.4 seconds. Unfortunately for Utah, the refs overturned their call and gave the win to Sacramento with a final score of 117-115.
Utah will take their five-game losing streak on a three-game road trip facing the Houston Rockets on Thursday night at 6:00 p.m. MT on AT&T SportsNet.