Lauri Markkanen leads Jazz past Raptors

Lauri Markkanen scored 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and rookie Walker Kessler flirted with a triple-double en route to leading the Utah Jazz to a 131-128 victory over the Toronto Raptors in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night.

Kessler, who was invited to the NBA Rising Stars Game this week, finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocked shots.

Jordan Clarkson scored 23 points and Mike Conley contributed 19 points and eight assists as Utah improved to 27-26 with a second straight win to open a five-game homestand.

Fred VanVleet led all scorers and notched a triple-double with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Pascal Siakam totaled 21 points, 10 boards and five assists, Gary Trent Jr. had 20 points and Scottie Barnes chipped in with 18 points and 14 rebounds in the loss.

Toronto, which rallied out of a 14-point first-half deficit and held a fourth-quarter lead, fell to 2-3 on its seven-game road trip.

The Raptors stayed competitive until the end, pulling within three when Trent made three free throws after being fouled by Kessler while shooting a 3-pointer with 5.4 seconds left.

Markkanen then sealed the victory with two free throws, and Barnes reduced the final margin of defeat with a last-second basket.

Toronto went ahead 98-96 by scoring the first six points of the fourth quarter and then held a 105-104 lead when Kessler took over.

Sparked by the 7-footer’s presence around the basket, the Jazz responded with nine straight to catapult ahead 113-105. Kessler had four rebounds, two buckets, one block and an assist in that game-changing two-minute spurt.

The Jazz took a 13-point lead in the second quarter, 60-47, after a Clarkson 3-pointer. Toronto used a 10-point run and then a buzzer-beating 3 by Trent to pull within five, 65-60, at the half.

The Raptors kept the momentum in their favor early in the second half, scoring eight straight to take their first lead since the opening minutes at 68-67.

Utah went up again a bit later after Clarkson and Markkanen made back-to-back treys and then took a 96-92 lead into the fourth quarter before Toronto temporarily took control.