It's nice being home.
After spending most of the season at airports and different cities, the Jazz are making the most of being home and sleeping in their own beds.
Led by six players in double figures, Utah used big runs in the second and third quarters to take down Indiana 139-119 on Friday night.
"Good team win," head coach Will Hardy said. "I'm proud of the guys. … Those games are hard to play. It's hard to play when up big for a long period of time, and I thought our guys kept their mental focus for the most part."
Coming into Friday, much talk has been made about rookie Walker Kessler and his ability to affect games on the defensive end. His ability to stay vertical and use his length to either block or affect shots is already among some of the best players in the game.
But he showed something different against the Pacers.
He finished with his second career double-double, dropping 20 points and 11 rebounds, both of which are career-highs. He also blocked two shots and altered numerous others, by far the most complete performance of his career.
"The ones he doesn't block, he's everywhere it feels like," Hardy said of Kessler. "Because his instinct is to protect the rim and alter shots, he can be out of position. … I thought he picked his spots well. These decisions are hard to make in real time. … I think he's continuing to improve."
At this point in the season, Lauri Markkanen isn't catching anybody off guard. Despite being the No. 1 focus for opposing defenses on the scouting report, Markkanen continues to play at a high level and within Utah's offense.
Friday night was different.
On another high-efficient evening, he finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds, and three assists for his 10th double-double of the season. While he's shown an unstoppable skillset at all three levels, the best part of his game is how he never hunts for his own shot — he played within Utah's system, so everybody stays in a consistent rhythm.
In what's becoming a theme this season, Markkanen started the game on fire with 12 first quarter points. After Indiana trimmed Utah's lead to two midway through, the Jazz responded with a 12-2 run, aided by three-pointers from Kelly Olynyk and Malik Beasley.
The Pacers would cut the deficit again, this time to seven, before Utah responded. Three-pointers by Simone Fontecchio and Markkanen helped the Jazz close strong and 35-24 after one.
The second quarter was one of runs, as each team found success on offense at different times.
After Utah's lead reached 15, the Pacers responded and made it a seven-point game. But a Clarkson three-pointer made it double digits again — yet the fun was just beginning.
Indiana tied the game at 54 on a 13-3 run with just over four minutes to play, seizing the momentum and silencing the Vivint Arena crowd.
However, it was short-lived. Beginning with a Jarred Vanderbilt dunk, the Jazz countered with a soul-sucking 17-0 run as Jordan Clarkson got going on offense.
Utah led 75-59 at the half.
"I thought our guys maintained their aggressiveness," Hardy said of the late run. "Our pace didn't slow down. … I thought it was on both ends of the floor. That sparked our momentum, and then we had them on their heels for a couple moments there."
The third quarter didn't belong to either team as the officials took over. In what became a complete slog, neither team could get into a rhythm as 17 fouls were called.
The Pacers kept coming, making it a 10-point game after living at the free throw line. But like they did in the opening half, Utah responded with a 12-3 run to lead 101-81 after three.
The Jazz kept their foot on the pedal to start the fourth, expanding their lead to 26 following back-to-back three-pointers by Markkanen and Fontecchio. While Indiana would knock down a few shots, Utah never let the Pacers back in and cleared the bench midway through the quarter.
Clarkson and Sexton won the battle of the backcourts, combining for 37 points and eight assists. After a cold spurt, Beasley found his rhythm on offense again after finishing with 16 points and five rebounds. Olynyk chipped in 10 points and four rebounds, while Fontecchio added nine points on 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.
The Jazz return to action immediately when they welcome Portland to Vivint Arena tomorrow night — tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
"The last couple of days have felt amazing to not think about a suitcase and head towards the airport," Hardy said. "Our guys have been spending more time at the facility getting treatment and taking care of their bodies. … It's great to be home."