Thank you, Nickeil.
After falling in and out of Will Hardy’s rotation, Alexander-Walker was called upon in a massive spot on Wednesday night — and he delivered.
Sensational plays by Alexander-Walker on offense and defense on the final two possessions propelled the Jazz to a stunning 124-123 victory over the defending champion Warriors.
“Where to begin,” Hardy said with a chuckle postgame. “Obviously, a crazy end to the game. … Ended up having another late-game situation, one we are all too familiar with at this point. They continue to adapt and they do it together. … That’s what’s made Team 49 so fun to this point in the year.”
The final minute was as dramatic as it gets, with the Jazz overcoming multiple deficits to pull out the win. Tied at 119 following a Jordan Clarkson bucket, the Warriors took a two-point lead with 35.9 seconds left following a Jonathan Kuminga dunk.
Then chaos happened.
Clarkson got entangled with Kuminga on the following possession, resulting in a flagrant two and ejection, while Kuminga and Malik Beasley were assessed technicals. Jordan Poole and Kuminga each knocked down a free throw, making it a four-point game with 13.3 to play.
Alexander-Walker made a great read on offense, finding Beasley for a wide-open three-pointer, making it a one-point game with 7.8 seconds left. Alexander-Walker then stole the ball from Poole on the inbounds pass, leading to a fast break where Beasley found Simone Fontecchio for a dunk and the win.
“A lot of things happened in tonight’s game with guys getting injured and thrown out,” Hardy said. “We had a variety of guys step up tonight. I continued to be amazed by our team’s resilience and their willingness to let it rip. … They never flinch in weird moments of the game.”
With his national team coach in the stands, Fontecchio put on a show.
He was everything Utah needed and more, providing a huge lift off the bench for the shorthanded Jazz after scoring a career-high 18 points. He shot 6-of-10 from the floor, 3-for-6 from beyond the arc, and 3-of-5 from the free throw line in his best game in the NBA.
Every time the Jazz needed a big bucket, he answered the call.
His two three-pointers in the first half were big, but he saved his best for last. He scored eight points in the fourth quarter, including a punishing dunk with his left hand that ignited the Vivint Arena crowd.
“He’s been a pro since he was 16. … He comes into work every single day,” Hardy said of Fontecchio. “He’s another guy that never complains or asks for more. We all know that he’s a capable player. … He can really shoot, he’s smart, and he knows what he’s doing. He reads the game really well.”
With Lauri Markkanen and Mike Conley out, the Jazz were missing their leading scorer and assists men. Jordan Clarkson filled in admirably, filling up the stat sheet with 22 points and nine assists, both team-highs.
Down two starters, the Jazz went with an entirely different starting five — a group that hadn’t played a minute together all season. That didn’t seem to matter as they jumped out to a quick 9-2 lead, aided by a Beasley three-pointer.
The lead didn’t last as the Warriors — just as shorthanded as Utah — found a rhythm on offense. Jordan Poole caught fire as Golden State reeled off a 16-5 run, taking a seven-point lead.
The Jazz responded with a quick 6-0 run, but Golden State again answered with a 10-4 run as Utah trailed 35-30 after one.
The second quarter was about offense as the teams combined for 70 points in the 12 minutes.
After trailing by five, the Jazz went on a 10-4 run as Clarkson caught fire with six straight points. After exchanging buckets for most of the second, the Warriors had a mini-run and extended their lead to seven — but Utah responded.
Clarkson hit a runner in the lane as the Jazz trailed 69-66 at the break.
Both teams stayed hot on offense coming out of the break, but a three-pointer by Kelly Olynyk gave the Jazz a 73-72 lead, their first since early in the opening quarter.
After another Poole three-pointer made it 78-76 Golden State midway through the quarter, but Utah responded behind the play of Clarkson. He scored eight points as the Jazz reeled off a 19-8 run — eventually leading 100-91 heading to the fourth.
The court quarter saw the roles reversed, with the Warriors constantly staying in touch and never allowing the Jazz to run away with the game.
Utah went cold midway through the quarter, and Golden State took advantage, going on a 17-6 run to lead by two with just over two minutes to play — setting the stage for the dramatic finish.
Seven Jazz finished in double figures, as Beasley dropped 18 points and four threes, while Collin Sexton chipped in 17 points before leaving midway through the fourth with a hamstring injury.
In his first career start, Walker Kessler finished with a double-double of 10 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks, while Olynyk added 15 points. Alexander-Walker added 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
Utah returns to action on Friday for a big showdown with Minnesota, a game that welcomes back Rudy Gobert to Salt Lake City. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.