MINNEAPOLIS (ABC4 Sports) – Jazz fans got another glimpse into the future of how good this team could be.
Rookies Walker Kessler and Ochai Agbaji combined for 37 points and were both on the court in the end, as the Jazz rallied for a 126-125 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves Monday afternoon.
Kessler had career-highs of 20 points and 21 rebounds, becoming the first rookie in the NBA to eclipse the 20-20 mark since 2014.
“My teammates have done a great job of helping me out a lot,” said Kessler. “I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without them. My coaching staff is so encouraging, and they keep encouraging me even when I fail. So, all props to them.”
Jordan Clarkson added 21 points, while Collin Sexton added 19 points off the bench for the Jazz, which had seven players score in double-digits in its third win in four games.
“This is who we are at this point,” said Jazz head coach Will Hardy. “We’re perfectly imperfect. We’re scrappy, we’re tough, we’ve got heart. We go through great moments, we go through tough moments, but the guys never stop fighting. They never stop competing, they never stop sticking together. This is just such a fun group to be a part of because of that.”
The Jazz won despite not having leading scorer Lauri Markkanen, who missed his second straight game with a hip contusion.
Anthony Edwards scored 17 of his 29 points in the third quarter and D’Angelo Russell added 21 points for Minnesota, which struggled inside against Kessler, the big rookie center traded from the Timberwolves to the Jazz in July.
Kyle Anderson had 13 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for the Timberwolves, who lost former Jazz center Rudy Gobert to lingering groin soreness early in the game.
Russell tied the game at 125 with 13.5 seconds left. Clarkson made one of two free throws for the winning margin, and Jaden McDaniels’ 3-point attempt at the buzzer missed the mark.
Minnesota acquired Kessler, the Naismith defensive player of the year in 2022 for Auburn, in a draft night trade. Two weeks later, he was sent to Utah as the Timberwolves sought a difference-maker down low in Gobert.
Monday, it was Kessler demonstrating his ability to affect opponents inside. He started his fourth game in a row in place of Kelly Olynyk and is averaging 13.5 points, 13.25 rebounds and three blocks as a starter.
Agbaji played a career-high 31 minutes, made 6-of-8 shots from the field and finished with 17 points.
“It shows a lot about the depth that we have to let rookies make those plays in a close game,” Agbaji said. “So, I’m proud of Walker. He had a really good game, so we’re just trying to build off that as rookies.”
After Utah took a lead midway through the third quarter, Edwards answered. Minnesota went on an 18-8 run to end the third, with Edwards scoring nine.
On three straight possessions, Edwards went right at Kessler at the hoop, getting a pair of free throws and two lay-ins.
Gobert was listed as questionable before the game with right groin soreness. He started against his former team, but only played five minutes before being leaving again due to the injury. Gobert was injured in the last game when he played only 13:25.
Kelly Olynyk missed his fourth straight game due to a left ankle sprain, while Rudy Gay returned after missing one game with a left low back spasm.
The Jazz now play eight of its next nine games at home, starting Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers.