Following Saturday's thrilling victory for the Utah Jazz, many of the headlines were primarily about Bojan Bogdanovic's defense and Utah's ability to come up clutch in the end — and for a good reason.
Bogdanovic's defense was superb, completely changing the outlook of the series as it was instrumental in the Jazz win. Using his size and physicality to pressure Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson, Dallas couldn't get into a rhythm for much of the game.
Also, Utah accomplished something only three other playoffs teams have done in the past decade. Through excellent execution on offense and physicality on defense, the Jazz overcame a four-point deficit with less than 40 seconds to play.
But lost amongst the thrill of victory was a storyline that was instrumental in Utah pulling off the game four win — a storyline about a player rising to the occasion and picking up his teammates when they needed it most.
It is no surprise that when the lights shone brightest, and the Jazz needed someone to pick up the scoring slack, Jordan Clarkson was that man. The reigning sixth man of the year, Clarkson is a player who provides instant offense on the bench — but on Saturday night, he was much more than just putting the ball through the hoop.
"I just do what I have to do to help us win. … I just wanted to be aggressive and try and find a rhythm early on," Clarkson said. "Bogey started everything though. His energy, just picking up full court and seeing that of him, it definitely gave us energy. It made us keep going and helped us so much."
The potential dilemma the Jazz faced was that with Bogdanovic expending so much energy on the defensive end, it would've been difficult for him to replicate the 25 points per game he was averaging entering Saturday.
Make no mistake, Utah needed every point against Dallas' vaunted defense — and that's why Clarkson's performance was so sensational. He finished with a team-high 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the floor, including an efficient 3-of-5 from three-point territory. He added four rebounds and finished with a +18 rating in 36 minutes.
When asked postgame about when he knew he would have a prolific game shooting the ball, the always confident Clarkson began laughing before giving his answer.
"When I walked into the gym. … I'm still the same guy just trying to win a game," he said. "I'm just staying in the moment and doing what I can to help."
He gave Utah a lift and frustrated Dallas with a bevy of moves inside and outside the arc. His ability to break down any defender and get to the paint was dominant, allowing the Jazz to be in rhythm when the ball would get kicked out to open shooters.
"He's locked in on both ends," Mitchell said of Clarkson. "The way he finished tonight's game, he's doing everything. He's hitting his shots, but he's also being able to get into the paint and create. and find guys. … He's a guy that steps up every time."
Clarkson is averaging 17.5 points on 50% shooting from beyond the arc, emerging as a legitimate offensive threat who gives life to the Jazz when they turn to their bench.
With Utah finding a recipe for success with Bogdanovic emerging as a pestering defender against the Mavericks, others will have to step up in scoring — and Clarkson is always ready to shoot.
"Nothing will change who I am or how I play. … I'm always going to have fun playing and try to score," he said. "I know what I can do, and I'll be ready. We'll be ready."