Kessler’s Big Night Not Enough As Jazz Lose To Suns

Mar 27, 2023, 10:52 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – Walker Kessler had another big night, but it wasn’t enough as Utah Jazz fell to the Phoenix Suns 117-103.

Kessler scored 18 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and blocked seven shots, but the Jazz struggled to slow the Suns in the fourth quarter

Phoenix led by just three entering the final period, but outscored the Jazz 33-22 to run away with the easy win.

Kessler Getting More Respect From Officials

Of the 12 seven-block games that have been recorded league-wide this season, Kessler owns four of them.

Brook Lopez, the only other player in the NBA with multiple seven-block games has just two, while six other players have just one.

The rookie center didn’t have any during his first 41 games of the season but has done it four times in his last 30 outings.

While it’s no coincidence that Kessler’s move into the starting lineup just one game before his first seven-block outing has played a big role in his recent production, Jazz coach Will Hardy offered another explanation.

“His technique is improved, (and) I think for sure the reputation that he has now is helpful,” Hardy said. “Like all the best defenders in the NBA, part of it is they have a reputation and it’s not that they don’t ever foul, it’s that they’re known as a great defender.”

Despite his aggressiveness as a shot-blocker, Kessler has yet to foul out of a game during his rookie season. And, to Hardy’s credit, the rookie seems to agree that his reputation has helped him with the officials.

“I feel like the refs kind of know that’s what I do,” Kessler said.

Of Kessler’s six five foul games, four came in the first 39 games of the season, and only two have occurred since moving into the starting lineup.

“He’s really gotten the respect of the league — the officials, the players — in terms of being one of those premier shot blockers and I think that that’s led to not being in as much foul trouble,” Hardy said. “Early in the year, I felt like there were tons of times that he was in foul trouble even coming off the bench and playing less minutes.”

Kessler is the first rookie since 1998 to have at least four seven-block games since Tim Duncan did it five times in his Rookie of the Year campaign.

Brantley Not Returning To Jazz

After falling to the Suns, Jarrell Brantley was seen saying goodbye to his Jazz teammates as he left the locker room.

Deseret News writer Sarah Todd reported that the team had decided not to bring back the forward on a second 10-day contract, ending his latest stint with the Jazz after just four games.

Jazz center Damian Jones knows the difficulties of trying to carve out an NBA career playing one 10-day contract to the next having signed four short-team deals during his six-year NBA career.

“It’s tough, just trying to play your best basketball in the time given,” Jones said. “I felt like Jarrell did his thing when he got in and I’m just hoping for the best because it’s all about opportunity.”

Jones successfully escaped the world of 10-day contracts, having signed a multi-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers during the offseason before he was traded to the Jazz.

Though Jones isn’t making huge money by league standards, he has a player option to stick with the Jazz next season, providing a sense of job security that can be difficult to find in the NBA.

“Being able to be in that position, yeah, it’s good,” Jones said. “Especially when you haven’t had the year that you wanted.”

Jones would be owed $2.5 if he opts to return to the Jazz next season.

Utah Jazz Next Broadcast

The Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs will tip off at 6 pm MT on Wednesday. The game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. It can also be streamed on DirecTV Stream and FuboTV.

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Kessler’s Big Night Not Enough As Jazz Lose To Suns