Walker Kessler turned in a tremendous game on Monday to lead the Utah Jazz to victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the rookie made a bit of history in the process.
Kessler recorded 20 points, a career-high 21 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots in the 126-125 win on the road. He went 9-of-13 from the field in 31 minutes of work for his first game with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds.
The 22nd pick registered the first 20-20 game by a rookie since Gorgui Dieng, who had 22 points and 21 rebounds on March 20, 2014. He is the only rookie in Jazz history to accomplish the feat and just the ninth player in the NBA to do so this season.
The performance earned high praise from Jazz coach Will Hardy.
Walker with 20 points and 21 rebounds was sensational. He did so many good things for us. … He has shown so much growth on both ends of the floor but I think defense comes naturally to Walker in a lot of ways and his ability to learn on the fly on the offensive end had been tremendous.
The effort by Kessler came against the team that drafted him last year. Minnesota traded him to Utah in the deal involving Rudy Gobert as the Jazz also picked up Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Leandro Bolmaro, Jarred Vanderbilt and four first-round picks.
The Jazz have gotten some great production from Kessler throughout the season. Monday was the 10th start by Kessler with the Jazz, who were without Lauri Markkanen, and the rookie responded with his best individual game of the season.
“My teammates found me in the right spots,” Kessler told Holly Rowe of AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain. “My teammates did a good job of keeping their guys off the glass. The coaching staff did a great job of game-planning and it was fun playing with them.”
Kessler has drawn praise throughout the season for his ability as a defender and rebounder and that was once again on display in the win over Minnesota. He has also played with poise and maturity to this point of the season, something…