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"This Was A Man-Up Type Game" | Utah Responds With Impressive Victory

Ryan Kostecka
Digital Content Writer

At the end of their most difficult and physically taxing stretch of the season, Utah announced just hours before tipoff that stars Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert would miss Saturday's game against Sacramento.

That meant that a weary and fatigued Jazz team, playing their fifth game in seven days and on the backend of a back-to-back, would be down two starters against the young and athletic Kings. In other words, somebody would need to emerge in a big way for the Jazz to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race.

Jordan Clarkson answered the call — and then some.

The reigning sixth man of the year was sensational as he set a new career-high with 45 points as the Jazz took down Sacramento 134-125.

"Today, in a lot of respects for JC, was a culmination of just grinding through," head coach Quin Snyder said of Clarkson. "He's not gonna be on the all-defensive first team, and I think he'd admit that, but he cares. The last month or so, he's been very deliberate in his work."

It's been an interesting season for Clarkson, but somehow he's responded from a difficult start to emerge better than ever late in the season.

Known for being a flamethrower off the bench, Clarkson struggled from three-point territory for much of the year. Never to settle though, he kept shooting from deep, knowing his shots would fall eventually — and in the meantime, he attacked the rim with a vengeance and constantly distributed the ball.

All the hard work and faith from this season culminated in his performance Saturday night, as his 45 points set a Utah franchise for points off the bench. He shot 15-of-21 from the field and 7-for-13 from three-point territory, constantly attacking and breaking down the Sacramento defense with ease.

"I'm not changing anything, I'm not really thinking about stuff too much," Clarkson said. "Just coming into work. … That's probably the best my shot's felt all season."

With Gobert out, it left a massive hole in the middle — and Hassan Whiteside more than filled it. The big man was as dominant as he's been all season, finishing with 12 points, 21 rebounds, three blocks, and a +14 rating in 35 minutes.

But most impressively, he overcame a slow start to dominate in the fourth quarter. When the Jazz needed his defensive presence more than ever, Whiteside found the energy to dominate with six points and seven rebounds in the final 10 minutes of action.

It wasn't the best of starts for Utah as De'Aaron Fox found a rhythm early and dominated in the pick and roll with 20 first quarter points. But Clarkson answered the call and helped keep the Jazz in the game with 14 points off the bench, shooting 4-of-5 from three-point territory as Utah trailed 42-37 after one.

But Utah flipped the script in the second quarter as the Jazz settled in defensively and did a much better job hedging Fox and slowing down the Kings in transition. With Clarkson staying hot, the Jazz took control in the final four minutes by ending the half on a 15-4 run to lead 71-67 at the break.

The third quarter played out exactly like the second, with the Jazz thriving defensively but struggling a bit offensively. Still leading by four with just over seven to play, Donovan Mitchell ignited a 16-4 run to close the quarter with five quick points as the Jazz went into the fourth leading 100-88.

Not backing down, Sacramento went on an 11-0 run to cut the deficit to five with just under seven minutes to go. But unlike the previous night, the Jazz responded by locking in on both ends of the court — responding with a 7-0 run to put the game away and secure the victory.

"This was a game, particularly when they cut it to 5, that we dug in. … This was a man-up type game," Snyder said.

Mitchell finished with 25 points, six assists, and five rebounds, while Bogdanovich added 26 points and four rebounds. 

The Jazz finally get to sleep in their own beds tonight and a day off on Sunday before returning to action against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. MST on ESPN.