On a freezingly cold Monday night wherein he got an opportunity to make a statement game against the team that drafted and eventually traded him away, Walker Kessler stood up boldly.
The seven-foot giant was unstoppable for the Utah Jazz as they visited the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis, dropping a massive 20-point, 21-rebound double-double to anchor his club on a 126-125 narrow win.
Kessler’s gigantic performance served as the first time that a rookie in Jazz history has recorded a 20-20 output in a single game. Furthermore, he is the first rookie since Gorgui Dieng in the 2013-14 campaign to finish a game with the said statline combination.
“I think my teammates have done a great job of helping me out a lot,” Kessler said in his postgame interview. “I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without them.”
Besides the huge double-double, Kessler also shot 9-for-13 from the field, dished out four dimes and rejected two shots – a great two-way display for the 21-year-old Auburn product.
“He’s shown so much growth on both ends of the floor, but I think defense probably comes natural to Walker in a lot of ways,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said of Kessler, via Brian Hall of the Associated Press. “His ability to learn on the fly on the offensive end has just been tremendous.”
With the win, the Jazz climbed up further on the Western Conference standings with a 23-24 record, now sits at eight spot.
They will have a one-day break before they face the L.A. Clippers at home on Wednesday.