Jazz rout Pacers in Indiana’s fourth game without injured star Tyrese Haliburton
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Lauri Markkanen had 32 points and 10 rebounds, Collin Sexton scored a season-high 30 and the Utah Jazz routed the Indiana Pacers 132-105 on Monday night for their sixth consecutive victory.
Keyonte George had 19 points and Jordan Clarkson added 17 for the Jazz, who shot 55.6%. They led wire-to-wire for the second time this season — the other one was Nov. 1.
Utah (22-20) has won nine straight at home by an average of 16.8 points.
Before the game, Indiana coach Rick Carlisle compared Markkanen to Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki.
“He’s the closest thing that I’ve seen to Nowitzki — just in terms of a 7-footer that can really stretch the game out and play inside,” Carlisle said.
That was just the latest in a string of recent accolades for the Jazz forward, who then showed his versatility on the court against the Pacers (23-17).
Last week, Markkanen was named Finland’s 2023 Athlete of the Year, and he was selected Western Conference Player of the Week by the NBA for Jan. 8-14.
Markkanen has heard the comparison to Nowitzki before but says he can only be himself.
“I don’t think it’s easy to live up to that but I think there are similar similarities. Still, a long way to go. So it’s nice for him say and it gives me more motivation to get better,” Markkanen said.
Known as mild-mannered and humble, Markkanen is finally letting more of his personality show on the court.
“He’s out here staring people down and flexing, which I’ve never seen in my life,” said chuckling teammate Walker Kessler, who blocked five shots.
Markkanen has scored 30 points or more three times in January and shot at least 10 free throws in three of his last four games. He was 10 for 10 from the line Monday night.
“He’s playing really, really physically when he has the ball. We’ve had a couple of games where he’s been able to play against the switch and use his physicality and size against smaller players,” Utah coach Will Hardy said.
Buddy Hield scored 14 points, but just two after the first quarter, and Andrew Nembhard also had 14 for Indiana.
The Pacers played their fourth game without team leader Tyrese Haliburton (left hamstring). Indiana was also missing Aaron Nesmith (shin) and Bruce Brown (knee), who had a big game in a 117-109 loss at Denver on Sunday.
“We didn’t have fatigue. We’re basketball players, man. That’s what we do. We want to play every day. Just didn’t execute,” Hield said.
Simone Fontecchio capped a 25-8 run that spanned the second and third quarters and made it 76-53 with 9:26 left in the third. Playing back-to-back games and missing several critical pieces, the Pacers couldn’t muster a substantial comeback.
“Their guards bullied us into the paint and scored repeatedly. We did a lot of substituting but they just got going and it was just hard to stop their entire team,” Carlisle said.
Sexton doesn’t usually log a lot of minutes — just 24 in this one — but is averaging nearly 29 points per 36 minutes in the last month, the sixth-best rate in the NBA.
“I’ve been counted out before. I mean, I’ve been put down, so I feel like right now this is my time to show,” Sexton said.
Sexton has scored at least 19 points in six straight games. Since he moved into the starting lineup, the Jazz are 15-3.
“I told myself I need to make those winning plays that may change the whole game. So just going out there and just making plays for myself, but also for my team,” Sexton said.
Two games after posting a franchise record for field goal percentage (67.1) in Friday’s 126-108 win over Atlanta, the Pacers shot 40% from the field.
Pacers: Continue their six-game trip at Sacramento on Thursday night.
Jazz: Continue their six-game homestand against Golden State on Wednesday night.