Markkanen drops career-high 49 as Jazz ground Rockets

Lauri Markkanen scored a career-high 49 points and the Utah Jazz snapped a five-game losing streak with a 131-114 road win over the Houston Rockets on Thursday, January 5 (Friday, January 6, Manila time).

Markkanen finished 15-for-27 from the floor and 13-for-13 from the free throw line. The 25-year-old Finland native, whose previous high was 38 points, also corralled 8 rebounds.

Utah’s Malik Beasley, who entered play fifth in the NBA in three-pointers made despite making only five starts, shot 5-of-11 from behind the arc and scored 19 points. Jordan Clarkson also had 19 points for the Jazz.

Utah shot 19-of-48 from deep as a team, with Markkanen going 6-of-15 on three-point attempts.

Jalen Green led the Rockets with 30 points. Kevin Porter Jr. added 23 points while Alperen Sengun paired 20 points with 14 rebounds. 

Houston also received 11 points from Jae’Sean Tate in his return from a 31-game injury absence, yet the Rockets dropped their eighth consecutive home game.

Markkanen seemingly had an answer for every Rockets run. 

Eric Gordon, Green and Jabari Smith Jr. buried a succession of three-pointers that cut what was a 10-point deficit to 70-67 with 8:56 left in the third quarter. 

But Markkanen followed with a three-point play, an assist on a Clarkson floater, and two free throws that pushed the lead back to 10 points one minute later.

When Tate gave the Rockets their first lead since the first quarter at 86-85 with a three, Markkanen contributed a pair of free throws to a 10-0 run the Jazz used to close the third. 

When rookie Ochai Agbaji opened the fourth with a dunk and a pair of triples, the Jazz reclaimed their cushion.

Markkanen was the linchpin of a 20-3 run that enabled the Jazz to seize a double-digit lead in the first quarter. He scored 13 of his 18 first-quarter points during the stretch, burning three triples in addition to a pair of dunks that turned an 11-7 deficit into a 27-14 advantage.

After Markkanen helped stake the Jazz to the lead in the first quarter, Beasley made sure Utah maintained it entering the intermission. Beasley tallied 14 points in the second quarter, drilling four treys in the process, to help the Jazz stave off the Rockets’ 33-point period with 33 of their own.

Houston made headway in the second by making 11-of-13 free throws, but the Rockets also committed 9 turnovers in the first half and allowed the Jazz to connect on 11-of-26 from deep and trailed 64-56 at the half. 

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