When Jordan Clarkson first checked into Monday’s game at Vivint Arena at the 7:11 mark of the first quarter, his Utah Jazz were trailing the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers by 10 points. A little less than three minutes later, he’d drilled four consecutive 3-pointers and ignited a stagnant-and-struggling offense.
When Clarkson checked out for the final time Monday, there was 4:48 to play, the Jazz were up nine, and Joe Ingles felt a pang of guilt at replacing his teammate in the lineup.
After all, by the time the Jazz wrapped up their 134-123 victory — an eighth consecutive victory that sent them to 23-5 on the season — they had the combination of Clarkson’s 40 points and apparently-limitless energy to thank for it.
“I’ve never played with anyone like J.C. in my lifetime — on the court or off the court,” Ingles said. “It’s pretty cool to play with someone that’s so locked in, I guess, to what his role is, and so comfortable in the role that he has.
“He got fouled on a 3 as I was walking up [to check in], and coach told me to leave him. Then he — he won’t like me saying it — but he screwed up on defense, so coach told me to go back out there to sub him out, and then he made a corner 3 right after that. And I was ready to walk back down and give him a couple more minutes,” Ingles added. “And it was a timeout after that, and I apologized to him for subbing him out, but he was happy.”
Yeah, Clarkson was happy.
And his teammates and coaches and fans were happy, too.
Those four early triples rescued an offense that was threatening to get hopelessly buried by Philly’s efficiency.
“When Jordan came in and had the performance that he had, we’ve seen that — obviously — before, but that was another level,” said coach Quin Snyder. “I thought it kept us in the game, where we were within striking distance because of … him in particular. He’s not bashful, and we don’t want him to be.”
Then Clarkson kept it up. And kept keeping it up.
He was at 19 points by halftime. He dropped in a baker’s dozen in the third quarter as the Jazz turned a small advantage into a substantial one. He reached the 40-point mark — two short of his career high — midway through the fourth with yet another big triple that slowed a Sixers rally.
He’d swung the momentum. He’d changed the course of the action. He’d paved the way for a 19th win in 20 games.
Queried where his seemingly never-ending supply of confidence comes from, Clarkson said the way he’s been embraced by everyone associated with the Jazz since his arrival has made it easy to go out there and play without remorse.
“Those guys always come over to the bench and tell me to keep shooting. Even when I’m having an off-night, even when I’m hot, they still tell me to shoot the ball no matter what, tell me to make the play,” Clarkson explained. “What gives me that confidence is just my teammates, coaching staff, just everybody continuously talking to me, continuously embracing who I am. And it’s just love, and I really appreciate that and am happy that they embraced me like that.”
Snyder agreed, noting that the simple act of expressing that “I believe in him, and his teammates believe in him,” apparently takes the already-buoyant shooting guard “to a really good place mentally.”
When asked if he could describe what it felt like to be in the kind of zone was in Monday (he shot 13 of 20 overall, including 8 of 13 from beyond the arc), Clarkson told a quick story about how when assistant coach Keyon Dooling accosted him during a timeout, excitedly praising him for the way he was playing and shooting, he wasn’t really registering what a roll he was on: “I said, ‘Man, I’m not even paying attention. I’m just shooting the shots that are available.’”
And that’s the best way to keep going about it, as far as he’s concerned.
He didn’t come into the game, he explained, feeling any pressure to ignite the offense, to get the team rolling. That would have taken him out of that moment — and all the other moments to come.
No, he added, the key is to keep it simple: If he has a good shot, he’s going to take it.
“At the end of the day, I’m just doing what coach is preaching, what we tell each other in the locker room — you know, come in the game, be aggressive, take the shots that are available,” Clarkson said. “I’m just coming in, doing what coach is telling me to do and what my teammates trust me to do, and that’s take shots and try to make plays. And that never changes — if we’re up by 20, if we’re down by 15, I think my role is kind of who I am.”
JAZZ 134, 76ERS 123
Green 1-6 0-0 3, Harris 14-24 5-5 36, Scott 2-3 0-0 6, Curry 5-10 0-0 11, Simmons 15-26 12-13 42, Howard 5-8 4-6 14, Korkmaz 0-5 0-0 0, Joe 0-1 0-0 0, Maxey 3-8 0-0 6, Thybulle 2-3 0-0 5. Totals 47-94 21-24 123.
Bogdanovic 4-12 3-3 11, O'Neale 3-7 2-2 11, Gobert 3-3 5-8 11, Ingles 8-12 2-2 20, Mitchell 9-24 4-5 24, Favors 2-2 4-4 8, Niang 2-4 0-0 6, Oni 1-2 0-0 3, Clarkson 13-20 6-7 40. Totals 45-86 26-31 134.
Philadelphia 42 24 28 29 — 123
Utah 35 37 34 28 — 134
3-Point Goals_Philadelphia 8-23 (Harris 3-5, Scott 2-2, Thybulle 1-2, Curry 1-4, Green 1-4, Korkmaz 0-2, Maxey 0-2), Utah 18-45 (Clarkson 8-13, O’Neale 3-7, Niang 2-4, Ingles 2-5, Mitchell 2-8, Oni 1-2, Bogdanovic 0-6). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Philadelphia 42 (Howard 12), Utah 36 (Gobert 9). Assists_Philadelphia 19 (Simmons 12), Utah 18 (Ingles, Mitchell 5). Total Fouls_Philadelphia 21, Utah 18. A_3,902 (18,306)