After being down by double digits for most of the game, the Jazz again showed that they won’t go down without a fight.
With a late run in which Jordan Clarkson caught fire and almost singlehandedly brought the Jazz back, Utah couldn’t complete the comeback and eventually fell 115-108 to Atlanta on Friday night.
“Obviously a tough game,” head coach Will Hardy said. “We struggled to make shots for the entire night and it made it hard to gather any sort of momentum for the majority of the game. We generated a lot of good looks, especially from the three point line. … But shots we normally expect to make didn’t go in tonight.”
Although it’d barely been 24 hours, life as an All-Star appeared fine for Lauri Markkanen. After getting a standing ovation from the crowd when he was announced as a starter pregame, Markkanen gave the home crowd something to cheer for after another impressive night.
Even though it wasn’t the ultra-efficient night he’s used to putting up, Markkanen overcame a slow start to finish with 25 points and 10 rebounds, his 21st double-double of the season.
Much like Markkanen, it was a slow start for Clarkson as well. Despite getting open looks, he just couldn’t get a bucket to feel from beyond the arc. Instead of launching still, Clarkson found a rhythm by getting to the rim, and it helped open up the rest of his game.
He finished with 24 points, five rebounds, and three assists, scoring 22 points from the second quarter on.
Like he’s done throughout his career in Salt Lake City, Clarkson caught fire at the perfect time and helped the Jazz nearly pull off the comeback when he scored eight straight late in the fourth.
After setting a season-high in points two nights ago, Mike Conley reset that number on Friday night. He was sensational against the Hawks, finishing with 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field, 2-of-4 from deep, and 4-for-6 from the free throw line. He also added seven assists, two rebounds, and one steal.
Arguably in a celebration mode following Markkanen’s first All-Star selection, the Jazz came out sluggish to start. Despite good looks, they couldn’t get a bucket to drop and then failed to get back on defense as Atlanta jumped out to a 14-3 lead.
Still trailing by double digits midway through, Collin Sexton came off the bench to give the Jazz the spark they needed. Using his elite quickness, he could break down Atlanta’s defense at will and get to the rim. Despite finishing, the Jazz had nobody getting back on defense, and the Hawks were able to respond nearly every time.
Back-to-back buckets by Sexton and Markkanen had the deficit down to six late in the quarter, but Trae Young answered with a pair of pull-up jumpers.
Utah trailed 32-22 after one.
The second didn’t go much better for the Jazz as the Hawks began the quarter with a quick 5-0 run, buckets that came in transition where Utah struggled to match up. Ochai Agbaji ended the run with a corner three, and then a Sexton dunk made it a 10-point game again.
However, Utah failed to make a substantial run over the next eight minutes as Atlanta would run its lead to 22 late in the quarter. But Clarkson got going, attacking the rim with a vengeance and finding the open shooter as Utah closed with a 12-2 run.
The Jazz trailed 62-50 at the break.
Any momentum the Jazz had heading into the locker room was gone when they came back out, as the Hawks started the second half with buckets on their first two possessions to push the lead back to 16.
Once again, Utah made a run as Conley and Markkanen combined for a 7-0 run to get the deficit to nine, the first time it’d been in double digits since late in the first quarter.
The Jazz would continue to fight and, following a Rudy Gay three-point play, had the deficit down to eight late in the quarter. But Atlanta would hit back-to-back threes and regain the momentum heading to the final 12 minutes.
Utah trailed 91-78 after three.
The Jazz had a chance to make an early run after a Conley free throw made it a 10-point game early in the fourth. Despite back-to-back stops on defense, Utah couldn’t cut into the deficit following a turnover and a bad shot from three — and the Hawks responded with a quick 5-0 run.
Like they’d done all season, the Jazz refused to go away as a Conley three and Markkanen and-one helped cut the deficit to single digits again. But that was short-lived as Atlanta quickly answered with a 6-0 run.
This time, Clarkson answered for Utah as he hit back-to-back threes, and the Jazz had the deficit down to five with just over three minutes to go. After exchanging buckets, an Agbaji three cut the deficit to four with 36.1 seconds to go — but De’Andre Hunter drilled a three for Atlanta on the other end, effectively ruining the comeback attempt.
“Tonight was a good example that we cant let a lack of shotmaking let us down on the defensive end,” Hardy said.”Because of that, we didn’t execute on the defensive end as we’d like to. I want to say that we won’t make any excuses for losing the game because we didn’t make shots, it’s just another good learning moment for us. … Our energy and focus level can’t be based on missed shots.”
Sexton finished with 12 points, all in the first half, while Agbaji chipped in 11 on 3-of-5 shooting from deep.
The Jazz will have the weekend off to regroup before facing Dallas on Monday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. MT.