SALT LAKE CITY — If you ask Bojan Bogdanovic, he shouldn’t even have been in the game.
There was 1.6 seconds left, the Utah Jazz were down by two and, up to that point, Bogdanovic had made just one basket
"I wasn't supposed to be on the court on the last play, the way I played all game,” Bogdanovic said.
Good thing Quin Snyder thought a little differently.
Bogdanovic swung wide to catch the inbound pass deep behind the 3-point line and was immediately crowded by James Harden and PJ Tucker. Bogdanovic wasn’t open — far from it — but he had no choice. He had to put it up.
Harden said he thought he got a touch on the ball and that Tucker's body impacted the shot. All of that, though, didn't matter.
Bogdanovic rose and shot between the two Houston defenders and somehow, someway nailed the long 3-pointer to give Utah a 114-113 win in Houston on Sunday.
“I don’t know how he did, but we’ll take it,” Mike Conley said.
Bogdanovic ran around and pulled up his jersey before he was met by a mob of his teammate near the scorer's table. As the Jazz celebrated, Tucker turned around and covered his mouth, almost in shock.
“I knew it was good," Tucker said. "I knew it was good as soon as he caught it. He got a good lift on it. I could just tell, as soon as he shot it — I knew it was good.”
It was a complete swing of emotions.
Just moments earlier, it was the Rockets celebrating a late 3-pointer after Russell Westbrook found Tucker in the corner for an open three that gave Houston a lead with less than two seconds to go.
That looked to be the game-winner. Then Bogdanovic showed once again how cold-blooded he could be.
It was Bogdanovic’s second game-winner this season to go along with the corner three he hit at the buzzer to beat Milwaukee in November. While he might have some recency bias, he immediately knew which one he preferred.
“It’s better than the Milwaukee one,” Bogdanovic said.
He might have a point. This one was on the road, it was tightly covered, and it came when the Jazz were behind. Oh, and it also helped him redeem himself on one of his worst nights of the season.
Bogdanovic had just 8 points, was just 2 of 7 from the field and didn’t have a point in the first half. But there was no doubt from his teammates in his ability to step up in the big moment.
“He’s our best shooter,” Conley said. “He’s a guy that's made big shots for us in the past. We rely on that. … Just proud of him, him sticking with it and excited for him.”
The Jazz won their second-straight game to improve to 34-18 on the season; but for much of the contest, Utah was struggling with the mini-lineup of the Rockets.
Westbrook scored 39 points; Harden had 28 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists despite going 2 of 13 from the 3-point line; and the Rockets jumped out to an 11-point lead — a lead that felt much bigger for much of the night.
So how did the Jazz get to the point where Bogdanovic could win it for them? Jordan Clarkson, and a little bit of Conley, too.
Clarkson scored 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting as he brought the Jazz back and helped turn the tide of the game. With the Rockets going without a true shot-blocker, it played right into Clarkson’s ability to breakdown a defense and attack the rim — and he attacked and attacked and attacked.
“Obviously we were trying to break the paint as much as we could, get to the rim, get to the free-throw line,” said Conley, who added 20 points and six assists in the win. "For a guy like Jordan … it's a perfect game for him.”
Conley said Clarkson “jump-started” the Jazz, and maybe no one more than Donovan Mitchell.
Mitchell was forcing things for much of the night, driving into the lane and trying to get free with an array of spin moves that mostly ended in badly missed shots. But Mitchell scored 10 of his 24 points in the final 6:32. In that time, he went 4 of 7 from the field and drew a foul with 15 seconds left that led to two free throws that gave the Jazz the lead before Tucker’s big shot.
But the Jazz had a bigger one.
"He’s such a competitor and I tell him to keep playing," Snyder said. "If he needs to hear that, but he knows how much I trust him."
And on Sunday, it was easy to see why.