The Oklahoman

Markkanen gives ‘wow’ factor as Jazz rally past Thunder for OT win

- Thunder Insider Joe Mussatto The Oklahoman USA TODAY NETWORK

SALT LAKE CITY — Thunder coach Mark Daigneault took a swig of water between Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen’s second and third game-deciding free throws.

It was a sweat-it-out kind of night. Markkanen’s go-ahead third free throw went in, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s ensuing game-winning attempt bounced off the backboard and rimmed out at the buzzer.

“I thought it was going in,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Didn’t end up going. I’ll shoot the next one.”

The Jazz beat the Thunder 120-119 in an overtime thriller Thursday night in Salt Lake City.

The loss, in OKC’s first game after the All-Star break against a Utah team it’s jockeying with in the standings, appeared to weigh heavy on Gilgeous-Alexander.

“It kind of shows the significance of the last stretch, especially teams in the race and trying to make a push for the playoffs like ourselves,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.

The Thunder (28-30), with 24 games to go, is a half-game behind Utah and Golden State for the last play-in spot.

“The locker room was disappoint­ed, which is a good thing,” Daigneault said. “It means we’re invested in the game.”

With four seconds left in overtime and the Jazz down by two points, Markkanen, the Jazz’s All-Star, was fouled on a 3-point attempt by Thunder guard Lu Dort.

Dort raised his hands in disbelief, but the call was upheld after Daigneault challenged it.

“There’s no situation we’d like more than Lu on an island against their best player late in the game,” Daigneault said. “At the end of the day, he delivers on a lot of those situations. It’s a tough one, because Markkanen’s got size on him, so if you don’t contest him, Markkanen can shoot over you.”

Markkanen made all three free throws, giving him 43 points on the night.

“He had 43?” Thunder forward Kenrich Williams said when asked about Markkanen’s night. “Wow … I’ve played him previously on different teams, and he looks like a completely different player this year.”

Markkanen won it for the Jazz in overtime, but Utah rookie center Walker Kessler made sure the game went to overtime.

Kessler, after back-to-back offensive rebounds, made a game-tying putback layup with five seconds left in regulation.

“They got a lot of second chances that you gotta try to wipe out,” Daigneault said.

But the Thunder, like it had in overtime, was left with a game-winning chance.

Josh Giddey inbounded to Isaiah Joe, who zipped past Kessler on the catch. Kessler recovered, though, and blocked Joe at the rim to force overtime.

Kessler, the 22nd pick in the 2022 draft, has been one of the best rookies in his class.

Kessler had seven points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks — including the game-saver.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander passes Steven Adams on Thunder scoring list

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stepped to the line in the third quarter and made a free throw for his 25th point of the night.

With that, Gilgeous-Alexander passed Steven Adams for fourth place on the Thunder’s all-time scoring list. SGA (5,206) trails only Russell Westbrook (18,859), Kevin Durant (15,942) and Serge Ibaka (6,054) for most points in Thunder history.

It was fitting that it happened on a free throw.

Gilgeous-Alexander shot 15-of-19 from the foul line in his 39-point night. The four misses (one in overtime) were uncharacte­ristic, but the 19 attempts tied a career high.

SGA had eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals in the loss.

He and Markkanen put on a show at Vivint Arena, where just days before they represente­d their teams as AllStars.

SGA’s highlight of the night came courtesy of Jazz rookie Ochai Agbaji.

Late in the second quarter, Agbaji stonewalle­d SGA on a drive, but Agbaji’s job wasn’t done. Without dribbling, SGA faked and dipped and shook Agbaji clear out of reach.

Once free, Gilgeous-Alexander kissed a midrange shot off the glass. He looked at the Thunder bench and mimicked the move as he backpedale­d down the floor.

SEC battle: Jaylin Williams vs. Walker Kessler

Thunder center Jaylin Williams and Jazz center Walker Kessler played against each other in high school, in college, and on Thursday night, the rookies battled each other from the opening tip in an NBA game.

“I feel like I’ve been playing against him forever,” Williams said.

Lost in the wild ending was a crazy beginning involving Kessler.

The Jazz’s first play was drawn up for a Kessler 3-pointer, which he drained.

It was the first 3-point attempt of his NBA career.

Williams and Kessler, SEC foes at Arkansas and Auburn, must have surprised each other Thursday night with the 3-point attempts.

Razorback Williams, a 26% 3-point shooter in college, went 3-of-4 from behind the arc. He’s 21-of-44 (48%) for the season.

Williams played all but five seconds of overtime. He finished with 11 points and six rebounds.

“I thought he had his nose in there,” Daigneault said. “At the end of the day, these guys are growing, and all these experience­s are stacking up.”

Thunder tip-ins

❚ Rookie forward Ousmane Dieng was assigned to the G League Blue on Wednesday.

❚ The Thunder is on an eight-game losing streak against the Jazz. OKC and Utah play three more times this season.

❚ The Thunder shot 0-of-8 from 3point range in the first quarter and 8of-37 (22%) for the game.

❚ Kris Dunn, the No. 5 pick in the 2016 draft, made his season debut. Dunn recently signed a 10-day contract with the Jazz.

❚ Jazz forward Rudy Gay was ruled out in the second quarter with a broken nose.

❚ Josh Giddey attempted a careerhigh 23 shots. He finished 8-of-23 with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

❚ Twice in the third quarter, Jalen Williams outjumped Walker Kessler for a rebound.

❚ Jaylin Williams blocked a shot at the rim in the third quarter, and then he ran down the floor and drew a charge.

❚ Kenrich Williams scored eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter.

❚ Daigneault and Hardy had dueling challenges at the end of regulation. Both were unsuccessf­ul.

❚ Aaron Wiggins, Eugene Omoruyi and Lindy Waters III all received DNPs (coach’s decision). It was Wiggins’ first DNP since Jan. 20.

❚ OKC is 2-4 in overtime games.

 ?? City. AP PHOTO/RICK BOWMER ?? Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, left, reacts after a dunk against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half of a 120-119 win Thursday in Salt Lake
City. AP PHOTO/RICK BOWMER Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, left, reacts after a dunk against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half of a 120-119 win Thursday in Salt Lake
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