SALT LAKE CITY — Before Game 2 last Wednesday, Jordan Clarkson walked to center court at Vivint Arena to be honored for winning Sixth Man of the Year. Who was walking right alongside him? An absolutely beaming Quin Snyder.
In a matter of minutes, Snyder would be roaming the sideline with his trademark intensity. But in that moment there was only one word to truly describe Snyder's expressions as the duo hugged, posed for pictures and waved to the crowd: Joy.
If there was someone worried about the early playoff struggles of Clarkson (there were), it wasn't Snyder.
"I can't remember who asked me, I think it was a number of people, if I was worried about Jordan's shooting because he hadn't shot great of late," Snyder said following Utah's Game 4 win Monday. "But you don't have to look too far back to see games like you saw (Monday)."
To be frank, Clarkson had more than struggled in the first-round series. He was 3 of 21 from 3-point range through the first three games and was shooting 37% from the field. The man the Jazz call for instant offense off the bench was bringing anything but that.
It wasn't just his shooting, either. He had four turnovers in Game 1, failed to get a rebound in Game 3, and was making head-scratching decisions along the way.
It looked like Monday was going be more of the same. He began Game 4 a woeful 2 for 7 and wasted possessions dribbling while Donovan Mitchell sat in the corner. That made fans, understandably, a bit restless.
Then the third quarter happened.
"He has the ability to come in the game and change the game," Snyder said. "And there's times when he can get himself in a little bit of trouble, but he can also get out of trouble."
He got the Jazz out of trouble in Game 4. Clarkson scored 10 points in the final 2:22 of the third quarter to give the Jazz a 13-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
He knocked down a short floater in transition and then hit a fadeaway shot over Ja Morant. Later, he nailed an open corner 3 and buried another triple with just 1.7 seconds left in the quarter. Clarkson also somehow found time for another shot during the short time period (he missed that one).
It was Clarkson at his Sixth-Man-of-the-Year best: an unconscious scorer, getting buckets in nearly no time at all.
"Not a lot of teams have a guy that can legitimately get you 40 points in 30 minutes or however minutes he plays," Mike Conley said, before adding: "He's gonna win us games."
Clarkson finished with 24 points in 21 minutes Monday.
The Clarkson experience can be maddening for some, no doubt. He's an uber-confident scorer with the unshakable mindset that the next one is always going to go in, no matter how bad of a game or series he's having. The same thing that so many get frustrated with about his game — or laugh at, like fellow Sixth Man of the Year candidate Joe Ingles used to do — is the same thing that Snyder loves so much: Clarkson keeps on shooting.
For Snyder, that's harder than it appears to be.
"He's mentally tough enough to take the next shot," Snyder said. "But he's also someone that cares so deeply about not playing well, about helping the team, so when he does have a stretch where he's missing a couple in a row, I don't think he presses, but he's very aware of it. And usually, at times, you just need to remind him that's who he is and that's who we need him to be."
The Jazz needed that version of Clarkson in Game 4. Bojan Bogdanovic had a quiet 13 points, Conley had 11 and Ingles had just 2. With Memphis refusing to go away, the Jazz needed an offensive punch. For 2:22 they got a sizzling one from Clarkson. In Game 4, that was enough.
"I don't think we're too worried about him kind of getting cold in certain instances because we all know he can turn it around and he's been there in these moments, plenty of times," Mitchell said.