HOUSTON – Lauri Markkanen scored a career-high 49 points to lead the Utah Jazz to a 131-114 victory over the Houston Rockets on Thursday night.
Markkanen got off to a fast start with 18 points in the first quarter to help the Jazz take an early lead. Houston took the lead late in the third quarter, but Utah finished that quarter on a 10-0 run to be on top for good.
“I’ve said it time and time again this year, it’s just my teammates, the coaching staff, they put me in the right places to be successful,” Markkanen said. “My teammates did a great job handing me the ball and I was just finishing my shots.”
An 8-2 run cut Utah’s lead to five with about 5 minutes remaining. Jordan Clarkson he hit a 3-pointer shortly thereafter before Markkanen’s jumper extended the lead to 117-107.
Jalen Green added a layup for Houston before Markkanen scored the next four points to start a 14-0 run for the Jazz that made it 131-109 and sent fans running for exits.
Markkanen added back-to-back triples late in the race. Players on the Utah bench rose to their feet and cheered as he hit both and were disappointed when a final 3-point attempt that would have earned him 50 points was misplaced.
“Jordan said, ‘Just go for 50,'” Markkanen said. “And I know they were double-teaming me at the end, but I had to try. I’m not really too worried that I didn’t make it, but it’s great to see my teammates excited, like I’m excited.” for them.”
Green had 30 points and Kevin Porter Jr.. added 23 for the Rockets, who fell for the sixth straight time.
Markkanen’s highest-scoring game entering Thursday was 38, which he had done twice, most recently on Dec. 20 against Detroit. He made six 3-pointers and all 13 free throws from him on Thursday night to eclipse his previous best games.
“He’s done a good job of continuing to work on different ways that he can impact the game offensively,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “He’s just shown an understanding of how to play when teams try to take things away from him.”
Coach Stephen Silas was disappointed by the number of times the Rockets sent Markkanen to the line.
“The free kicks were the most important part,” he said. “It’s always the most important part. When a guy gets a bunch of points, it’s your ability to be disciplined and not foul him or put him on the line 13 times. That’s how it works.”
The Jazz led by seven after Clarkson’s jump shot before the Rockets went on an 11-3 run to make it 86-85, giving them their first lead of the second half. Porter and Jae Sean Tate they made back-to-back 3-pointers to cap that run and put Houston on top.
The Rockets weren’t on top for long. Utah scored the last 10 points of the third quarter, with 3-pointers from Malik Beasley Y Mike Conleyto take a 95-86 lead going into the fourth.
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Jazz: Markkanen figures personal best of 49 points