Azubuike's alley-oops lead to Jazz win, and remind Clarkson he owes a Louis Vuitton bag

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SALT LAKE CITY — Udoka Azubuike's smile was wide enough to be seen from the highest rows of Vivint Arena.

As the surprisingly springy center ran down the court, he happily pointed toward Jordan Clarkson. The two had just connected on back-to-back alley-oops — plays that were near mirror images of each other — and Azubuike couldn't contain his joy.

On a strange night, why not have an unlikely alley-oop duo to help springboard a win?

The Jazz fought through a rough shooting game, a poor defensive third quarter and off nights from some of their top players to come out with a 114-99 win over the Orlando Magic Friday.

As the clock ticked under eight minutes to play, the Jazz held tightly to a 6-point lead. That's when Clarkson drove inside and found Azubuike for the first of two straight dunks. On the next possession, he did the exact same thing.

"I was like hyped up," Azubuike said of his connections with Clarkson. "I didn't think JC was going to pass the ball. Because, you know JC, he likes to shoot the ball a lot."

No lies detected there.

Those were the only two assists from Clarkson on Friday, but they came just when the Jazz needed them. The two highlight plays sent a spark throughout the arena and the team, and Utah pulled away late.

"It kind of helped our confidence because in the first few quarters it was kind of like a dog game — we was going through the motion, I think," Azubuike said. "We made those couple of plays, and it kind of gave our team that boost, that confidence to move forward."

That may not have been the only reason Azubuike was smiling so wide. At the beginning of the season, Clarkson gave a challenge to the young center: The reigning Sixth Man of the Year told Azubuike that if ever scores 10 points in a game he would buy him a Louis Vuitton bag.

The two dunks gave him 10 points on the night (Azubuike finished with a career-high 12 points) — the third time in a week that the hulking center has scored in double figures.

The bag might be getting nicer and nicer.

"The first time he went out there and scored 10, he tapped me and said, 'JC, I scored 10, you still remember that bag?' And I'm like, 'You know what? I got you.' Then he did it again. I think he did it again," Clarkson said. "I shouldn't have passed him the ball. … Now I might have to get him a Goyard or something luxurious."

Clarkson laughed before adding: "I'll get him something special — something he can get some ladies with."

Clarkson wasn't Azubuike's only partner on Friday in Utah's win. Coach Quin Snyder went as far as calling Azubuike, who once again started with Rudy Gobert in the final stages of recovery from a left calf strain, and Hassan Whiteside a "tag-team" duo.

Whiteside finished with 15 points and 18 rebounds, and Azubuike had seven rebounds to go along with his 12 points.

Snyder even called it a "bright spot" in a game that Whiteside asked to come out for a breather.

"That tells you how hard he's working," Snyder said. "That happened tonight with Hassan. Dok was coming in and he's ready to go. If we can develop that kind of tag-team wrestling (mentality) — someone comes up and tags, you go. That's another level of connectedness on our team."

That defensive effort saved the Jazz on Friday.

Utah built an 18-point lead early in the second quarter with the help of a 17-0 run. The bad shooting eventually caught up to them, though; the Jazz shot 3 of 23 from 3-point range in the first half and the lead was down to 5.

"To shoot like that and not be down says a lot about how he were competing," Snyder said.

Led by Wendell Carter, Jr., Cole Anthony and Mo Bamba, the Magic entered the fourth quarter down by just 3 points. It didn't help matters that Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic combined to shoot 5 of 22 from the field.

A couple thundering dunks, though, restored order, and after that the Jazz cruised to their fifth-straight win.

And Azubuike earned a better bag.

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