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SALT LAKE CITY — With around four minutes remaining in Utah’s 114-113 win at Houston Sunday, Jordan Clarkson looked set to check back in. But soon, after a quick talk with Quin Snyder, he was on his way back to the bench.
Yes, the man who had brought the Jazz back from a double-digit deficit, who had scored 30 points in 29 minutes, who had abused the Rockets center-less defense with relentless drives to the hoop, wasn’t going back in.
Why? He trusted the guys out there.
“We were playing well,” Clarkson said. “I just told (Snyder) to, ‘Let them rock.’ We were scoring, we were rotating defensively.”
To Clarkson, he had done his job. He had come off the bench and scorched the Rockets, going 12 of 19 from the field and showing off his whole bag of tricks. He dribbled into the paint for layups time and time again. He hit a sleek jumper from the baseline that even elicited oohs from the Houston crowd. And he was 3 of 7 from the 3-point line.
Against the super-small ball Rockets, the Jazz wanted to attack; to get into the paint to take advantage of Houston’s lack of shot blockers down low. That fit right into Clarkson’s shifty game.
“He can go either way, be persistent in getting to the rim — (the game plan) was perfect for him,” Mike Conley said. “He came in and took over.”
Clarkson taking over isn’t a new thing; actually, it’s starting to become common — this was his second 30-plus point game in the last five games. And over the last six contests, he is averaging a team-high 21.3 points while shooting 53.9% from the floor and 48.8% from 3-point range.
He’s been on a tear. and he was on a special kind of one in Houston. So it stood to reason that he’d be the one to close the game out — to try and bring the Jazz over the finish line. But when the Jazz went on a 9-0 run immediately after Clarkson checked out of the game with 5:33 remaining, he was fine watching from the sideline.
He had set the table; his teammates could bring it all home.
“I did my role, played my minutes and tried to impact the game as much as I could,” Clarkson said. “They had it going and told them to, ‘let them rock.’”
That trust was prevalent in more ways during Utah’s come-from-behind win. Like when Snyder drew up a play for Bojan Bogdanovic to win the game when Bogdanovic was just 1 of 6 on the night. Or when Conley, who had 20 points and six assists as he continued his strong run of play, happily sat out the final possession.
“The thing about that game and that group is that they trust in each other, and they allowed themselves to make substitutions situationally,” Snyder said. “Mike Conley was having a great game, he’s not in the last play, he very well could’ve been the guy to hit the shot, so terrific win.”
But for Clarkson, Conley and everyone else, they didn’t care who got the glory — they just wanted the win.
“We all trust in each other, we know what we can do,” Clarkson said. “Everybody stepped up and did their job. Bojan stepped up and made big plays in the end, Rudy (Gobert), every one, Royce (O’Neale) came on and did a lot of good things defensively, Donovan (Mitchell) picked it up in the second half.”
And after Clarkson poured in 30 points, he let everyone else rock.