Clarkson Outshines Kings With Career Night
SALT LAKE CITY – Despite playing down two starters, the Utah Jazz pieced together a series of stellar performances, led by Jordan Clarkson to outlast the Sacramento Kings 134-125.
Clarkson’s career-high 45 points stole the show, but Donovan Mitchell’s 25 points, Bojan Bogdanovic’s 29 points, and Hassan Whiteside’s 21 rebounds were crucial to the Jazz victory.
With the win, the Jazz avoided pulling even with the Dallas Mavericks in the loss column with a record of 42-25.
Clarkson’s Career Night
Clarkson had arguably the best performance of any Jazz reserve in franchise history, scoring a career-high and team-best 45 points off the bench.
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year eclipsed John Drew’s previous record of 42 points set in in 1984 for a second unit Jazzman and became the first player on the roster to break the 40 point mark this season.
But Clarkson’s performance wasn’t an anomaly, he’s been one of the Jazz best players since the beginning of February.
“He cares about winning and competing,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I think really the last month or so he’s been very deliberate in his work.”
Over the last 13 games, Clarkson has been the Jazz third-leading scorer with 17.5 points while shooting 47 percent from the three-point line.
He’s also ranked second in the team’s plus-minus with a +9.2, trailing only Whiteside’s +9.9, and he’s doing it in the sixth most minutes.
“I’m not changing anything, I’m not really thinking about stuff too much,” Clarkson said about this recent surge. “Just coming into work.”
With a number of blown leads to mediocre opponents, Conley’s recent cold streak, and one of the toughest schedules left in the regular season, the Jazz have a lot of question marks heading into the final 15 games of the year.
But for the last month and a half, Clarkson has offered the Jazz more solutions than questions, and it’s coming at an important time.
Golden State Might Be Out Of Reach
Despite the Jazz win, the odds of catching the Golden State Warriors took a pretty significant hit Saturday night.
After Friday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs the Jazz sat 3.5 games back of the Warriors with just 16 games left to play.
The Jazz could have trimmed that to 2.5 with a win over the Kings and a Warriors loss to the suddenly hot Milwaukee Bucks — but nobody told the Warriors.
Golden State kept their 3.5 game lead in the standings over the Jazz with an impressive 122-109 win over the Bucks. The Warriors also got 38 points from Klay Thompson who appeared to break out of a funk after a stretch of bad games after the All-Star break.
Overtaking the Warriors isn’t an impossibility at this point, but the Jazz were already short on real estate heading into the Saturday night, and the Warriors trimmed it down even further.
With Conley and Forrest out of the lineup, Snyder got a greater opportunity to play his young backcourt that has spent most of its time in Utah towards the end of the bench.
Jared Butler ended up with a promising five points and four assists in 12 minutes, while Nickeil Alexander-Walker failed to see the floor.
After averaging 26 minutes per game with the New Orleans Pelicans to open the season, the guard has been relegated to spot minutes wherever he can find them.
Having been with the Jazz for a little more than a month, Snyder discussed what he’s seen from the third-year guard, and how the organization is measuring his progress.
“It’s always difficult to evaluate anybody in a short period of time,” Snyder said. “I don’t think right now with Nickeil it’s something that you go into the game and look at three minutes and say he played well or he didn’t.”
After Saturday’s DNP, Alexander-Walker has appeared in six games for the Jazz with an average of six minutes per game.
Over the team’s previous two outings Snyder had put his new guard into the rotation in the first half to allow him to get extra run with some of the regular rotation players.
In the blowout victory over Portland, Alexander-Walker went scoreless on 0-4 shooting, but did hand out five assists and grab three rebounds in 12 minutes.
“I think his passing has been something that’s really been impressive,” Snyder said of Alexander-Walker. “With his size and his ability to pass with either hand.”
In Friday’s loss to San Antonio, the guard recorded only a single rebound in six and a half minutes, though the Jazz coach wanted not to read too much into the short stint.
“I’ve been really pleased with his approach and the way that he’s working,” Snyder concluded. “I’m not, nor any of us are really at a point where you’re evaluating him game to game as much as you are where his mindset is, what his work ethic is, and the tools that he has.”
Jazz fans shouldn’t expect to see a lot of Alexander-Walker over the final four weeks of the season, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t factoring into the team’s long-term plans.
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