Sometimes all it takes is having the crowd on your side to help turn a negative situation into a positive one.
Fortunately for the Utah Jazz, after playing seven of their past eight games on the road, they were back in the comfortable confines of Vivint Arena — and having the crowd on their side played a massive role Tuesday night.
After being forced into overtime following a buzzer-beating putback, the Jazz responded with a dominant five final minutes as they took down Memphis 121-115. Utah clinched a spot in the playoffs with the win and completely avoided the dreaded play-in tournament, meaning the lowest they could finish is the No. 6 seed.
"Shoutout to the crowd tonight," Danuel House Jr. said postgame. "They definitely made a difference. … It helped."
Here are five things to know following the win:
1.) False Narrative Sparks VictoryBefore Utah tipped off with Memphis, head coach Quin Snyder met with the media for his usual pregame press conference. But before a question could be asked, Snyder had something to say.
"A lot of times, people use numbers to tell a story, and it's important to do that responsibly," he said.
Hours later, not only did the numbers tell a story, they led to a victory.
Utah overcame multiple trials and tribulations — a double-digit deficit in the third quarter and the buzzer-beater as time expired — to rally and pull out the win. If the troubles within the team were as severe and accurate as being reported, there's no way the Jazz would've been able to stick together and pull out the win over a gritty Grizzlies team.
In his postgame press conference, Rudy Gobert alluded to as much, believing that this is a game the Jazz wouldn't have been able to walk away victorious a few weeks ago.
"A week ago, we probably don't win that game," he said. "There was a trust and intensity down the stretch. We competed, we played the right way, the ball moved. … It's a different game when we play the right way."
Much talk has been made recently about Utah's struggles to close out games, but Snyder quickly gave those "numbers" legitimate context during his pregame speech. Essentially, the Jazz have struggled in the fourth quarter of games, but the truth is not as dramatic as the narrative being written — and Utah proved that on Tuesday.
2.) Jordan Clarkson Continues To EvolveEntering the 2021-22 season, it was hard to imagine what more Clarkson could've done to elevate his game to new heights after winning the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award last year.
But after struggling to shoot the ball from beyond the arc to begin the season, Clarkson found other ways to contribute. Whether finding the open man or taking control with floaters in the paint, he continued to thrive as the sixth man off the bench, knowing his shot from three-point territory would return.
Tuesday night is when it all came together.
In one of his best performances of the season, Clarkson finished with 22 points, five rebounds, five assists, and a +17 rating in 31 minutes. He was highly efficient on the night, shooting 7-of-13 from the floor, 3-for-8 from beyond the arc, and 7-of-8 from the free throw line.
But it wasn't his efficiency that was so helpful, it was the way he dictated the pace and controlled the offense. From no-look passes to identifying mismatches and taking advantage of them, Clarkson acted as floor general and thrived in that role.
"It's good for us, confidence-wise, to win this game, moving forward into the playoffs, knowing that we clinched already," he said postgame. "But I think for the morale, us talking, us figuring it out, us continuing to communicate, it's good for us to pull this one out."
3.) Rudy Gobert Dominates Down LowGobert has heard the talk, and frankly, he's tired of it. He's tired of the worn-out story about dissension within the team and the Jazz struggling. He's tired of the false narratives, and simply put, he just wants to win by playing the right way.
That's precisely what he did against Memphis.
On a night when going up against the best rebounding team in the league, Gobert dominated inside the paint. He finished with his second 20-20 game of the season, totaling 22 points and 21 rebounds, adding one block and one steal while shooting 12-of-18 from the free throw line.
While his defense is renowned around the league — and he proved why against the Grizzlies — his offense deserved the most praise.
He finished just 5-of-8 from the floor, but that was largely because he was able to run the court and seal his defender deep in the post. Utah had no problem taking advantage of those mismatches, including a few big possessions down the stretch in the fourth quarter that either resulted in a bucket or free throws for the big man.
Gobert was particularly impressive in overtime, finishing with five points and five rebounds in the final 3:30 of the game.
4.) Reserves Rally With Big PerformanceSnyder couldn't talk enough about the play of his bench enough on Tuesday night when speaking postgame, spending a good minute or two heaping praise on Clarkson, House, Hassan Whiteside, and Rudy Gay — and for good reason.
While Clarkson's performance is already well documented, Whiteside was equally impressive when he finished with a monster double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds in 19 minutes. But it wasn't just his offense that did the most damage, it was his defense as he finished with four blocks, including two over Memphis' Jaren Jackson Jr. in the fourth quarter.
House might've been even more effective, finishing with a +17 rating in a season-high 29 minutes, adding nine points, three rebounds, two blocks, and insane energy.
"All I'm just trying to do is just give the team whatever (they need)," House said.
Altogether, Utah's four bench players all finished with a rating of +6 or more, including double-digits by Gay, Clarkson, and House. While the final rotation is becoming clear,
5.) Western Conference Playoff PushFollowing Utah's win over Memphis, the Jazz are officially playoff bound. While they're now locked into avoiding the play-in tournament — WHEW — they're far from knowing their eventual playoff seed.
Currently in the No. 5 seed, mathematically, Utah can still finish from the No. 6 seed to the No. 3 seed, meaning homecourt advantage in the first round is still in play. The good news is that as long as Utah finishes ahead of Denver, with whom it has the tiebreaker, the Jazz will then have the tiebreaker over both fourth-seeded Dallas and third-seeded Golden State.
STANDINGS1.) Phoenix (62-16)2.) Memphis (55-24) — 7.53.) Golden State (50-29) — 12.54.) Dallas (49-30) — 13.55.) UTAH (47-32) — 15.56.) Denver (47-33) — 16 __________________________________________7.) Minnesota (45-35) — 188.) LA Clippers (39-40) — 23.59.) New Orleans (34-44) — 2810.) San Antonio (34-45) — 28.5
REMAINING SCHEDULESUtahvs. Oklahoma City (4/6)vs. Phoenix (4/8)@ Portland (4/10)
Golden Statevs. Los Angeles Lakers (4/7)@ San Antonio (4/9)@ New Orleans (4/10)
Dallas @ Detroit (4/6)vs. Portland (4/8)vs. San Antonio (4/10)
Denvervs. Memphis (4/7)vs. Los Angeles Lakers (4/10)