SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Lauri Markkanen had 28 points and 13 rebounds and Mike Conley added a three-point play and two clutch free throws in the closing minutes to lift the Utah Jazz to a 131-128 win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.
“Taking my time, having a little more patience, not just going right away and being a little bit stronger with the ball,” said Markkanen of finishing strong against the physical Raptors after a slow start.
Toronto’s Fred VanVleet had his second career triple-double with 34 points, a career-best 12 rebounds and 10 assists, but the Jazz overcame that effort by shooting 53% and making key play after key play down the stretch.
Conley, who had 19 points and eight assists, drew Pascal Siakam’s sixth foul on a head fake and completed a three-point play to give the Jazz a 120-113 lead with 2:13 remaining.
“(Siakam) reached in but I was able to finish it. Really was the best of both worlds there. It was a big play and I think it got us going enough able to finish the game,” Conley said.
VanVleet kept the Raptors close with his 3-point shooting, but Toronto couldn’t complete the comeback effort.
“If we’re up three at the end of the night, then a lot of these stats look a lot better. We’d be celebrating … just got to find ways to win and that’s really all that matters,” VanVleet said.
Conley hit two free throws with 12.2 seconds left to seal the win and the Jazz moved above .500 at 27-26.
“Mike has been such a steadying force for us late in games. He and I have developed a very good communication about what we would like to do and he does a good job communicating that to the team and getting them organized. His decision-making continues to be great late in games,” Utah coach Will Hardy said.
Jordan Clarkson scored seven of his 23 points in the final 1:39 and Walker Kessler added 17 points, 14 rebounds and matched a career best with seven blocked shots for Utah, which has won five of its last seven games.
“(Kessler) got seven blocks tonight and I don’t know how many more he affected. Guys just stopped going in on him at some point,” Markkanen said.
Siakam scored 21 before fouling out, Gary Trent Jr. had 20 points and the Raptors stayed in the game with a season-high with 25 offensive rebounds.
“Obviously you saw a lot of those rebounds were off our own misses,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “I thought we had some really good chances down there that we didn’t finish and those led out to some transition 3s.”
Kessler had NBA season-best six blocked shots in the first quarter, tying the franchise record that Mark Eaton set on Feb. 18, 1989, against San Antonio. Eaton had six blocks in both the second and fourth quarter and 14 overall in that game.
VanVleet had his first career triple-double last season (37 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds) against the Jazz on Jan. 7.
The Jazz, at times, showed their youth — failing to box out for rebounds, turning the ball over and slow getting back on defense, which led to 28 fast-break points for Toronto.
Malik Beasley had four 3s and all 14 of his points in the first half as the Jazz led by as many as 14 points. The Raptors cut it to 65-60 at the break, thanks to 15 points off Utah’s 11 turnovers. Toronto had just two giveaways and 15 offensive rebounds in the same span.
Raptors: Scottie Barnes was announced Tuesday as part of the 2023 Jordan Rising Stars, which will be played in Utah on Feb. 17. … O.G. Anunoby missed his third straight game with a left wrist sprain.
Jazz: Detroit Lion Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson sat courtside. … Kessler will also play in the Rising Stars game.
Raptors: Continue seven-game trip – their longest since 2007 -- at Houston on Friday.
Jazz: Host Atlanta on Friday.
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Matthew Coles, The Associated Press