HOW BOUT THIS JAZZ (GAME 44)
VS CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (1/10/2023)
Donovan Mitchell returned to where his NBA career began. Donovan Mitchell was met with a rousing ovation when introduced. Donovan Mitchell put on a performance against his old organization. Donovan Mitchell scored 46 points. Donovan Mitchell had seemingly the perfect meetup against the team that traded him away. Yet, Donovan Mitchell and the Cavaliers left with a loss to the hands of Jordan Clarkson’s Utah Jazz. Now that the great boo or cheer debate of 2023 is over and settled, we can fondly remember the past and look forward to what the future holds. The Jazz have beat Gobert’s Wolves, toppled Bogdanovic’s Pistons, and as of last night squeezed through Mitchell’s Cavaliers. Sure, those guys also got victories over Utah, but we will settle for at least one victory and a form of closure.
The Jazz had comfortable spurts and a raucous crowd behind them. They led by as much as 13 at one point in the game even. But when the clock struck under the two-minute mark in the 4h, the Jazz found themselves down 107-102. This by no means seems like an insurmountable lead but for the recent Utah team, coming out on top in the clutch had eluded them for weeks. Not to mention a motivated and red-hot Donovan Mitchell on the opposite side of the floor and an offense that had become stagnant in the 4th. But then Jordan Clarkson, who was informed after the game by Holly Rowe, that he had inherited the team and the city in the absence of Mitchell, would do something insane. Coach Will Hardy would say post game that he “told” Jordan Clarkson to go get a 7-point play, and that’s exactly what the former sixth man of the year did. Clarkson hit a step back triple off a Jazz offensive rebound as Caris LeVert stepped under his foot which resulted in a flagrant foul. JC would hit the resulting free throw and with the added possession he got the pass off the inbound and put the brakes on a trailing LeVert. Caris would collide into the back of Clarkson and Jordan ended up with three more free throws. In the span of 13 seconds and in one total possession the Jazz took a 109-107 lead off of Clarkson’s 7-point play. Clarkson would then hit a floater to cement his 32 points on the night. Call it clutch, call it lucky, call it foolishness on Cleveland’s part, just don’t call it a loss. Utah won 116-114 after same late game shenanigans.
I know Jordan Clarkson is in the midst of extension talks that currently have fans wondering if he could be with the team in five years or be gone in 1 month. But JC brought it against his former teammate. 32 points on 19 shots making for a super-efficient 58 percent shooting percentage. He was 45 percent from downtown on 11 attempts and had enough ice in his veins to run an ice cream truck. Add six boards and 4 assists and you have a nice bow on one of his best games of the season. Clarkson may not be a true building block, but for the Jazz veterans who may be on the move he seems the most likely to stay. He can do so without cutting into the young players minutes as well. Guys like NAW and Agbaji can still play with and around JC. Conley, Olynyk, and Gay cannot quite make the same case. He puts butts in seats on top if it all, and it seems that if Clarkson is willing the Jazz want him around for quite some time, despite the youth movement. Last nights game showed why.
THREE KEY NUMBERS:
Clarkson’s clutch 32 points was the 19th time in his career that he had put up 30 plus. He did it 5 times in LA with the Lakers and 2 times in his short Cleveland stint. The math means he has scored 30 or more points 12 times while rocking the J-note. The last time he did it was almost a month ago with his 39-point performance against the Pelicans December 15th, of 2022. This is the third time he has accomplished the feat this season.
Evan Mobley is a great player and a great rebounder. He and Jarrett Allen are both top 25 in the association in rebounds per game. Unfortunately for Mobley, Allen left the game early with an illness and Mobley was left to face the onslaught of Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler who combined for 27 boards themselves as Utah outrebounded the Cavaliers 54-37, a 17-rebound difference. They had a plus 8 on the offensive glass as well at 15. Markkanen’s 16 boards tied a season high. He has only snagged 16 or more boards 7 other times in his previous 5 years.
Remember I mentioned Utah’s woes in crunch time recently? Well despite the win, they did not disappear whatsoever, The Jazz scored 5 field goals in the entirety of the 4th quarter. 4 of them were off the hands of game hero Jordan Clarkson, while the other was a Jarred Vanderbilt dunk off a loose ball. Anyone else who had points did so through the charity stripe, such as Lauri Markkanen’s six-point 4th.
OPPOSING FAN COMMENT OF THE NIGHT:
“I’d trade LeVert for a bigger seat for Mitchell on the team plane.” -Schwin216