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Jordan Clarkson ejected in odd sequence as Jazz lose to Grizzlies


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SALT LAKE CITY — Call it the Jordan Clarkson siiiike game. Mostly because everything else was pretty forgettable in Memphis.

The Utah Jazz have played the most back-to-back games in the league this season; and this weekend's set may have been the toughest of the bunch. Chicago and Memphis aren't that close, distance wise, and the early tip meant the Jazz played twice in the span of 22 hours.

So was Sunday a scheduled loss? It likely played a role in Memphis' 123-118 win over the Jazz at FedEx Forum. Utah has now lost seven of its last eight games and are officially out of any kind of playoff positioning for the first time this season.

Lauri Markkanen had 21 points to lead seven Jazz players who finished in double figures. Kelly Olynyk had 19 points and eight rebounds, and Walker Kessler finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks, five of which came all in the first quarter.

Even with Ja Morant sitting out for Memphis, it wasn't enough for Utah to top the second best team in the West.

The Grizzlies hit seven 3-pointers on their way to a 43-point second quarter, which helped them open up a 16-point lead on the Jazz. That was when the game was ultimately decided. Memphis shot 60% from the field in the quarter and grabbed six offensive rebounds to boot. So on the rare occasions the Grizzlies did miss, they got the rebound, too. Throw in seven Jazz turnovers in the quarter (they finished with 20 for the night) and it turned into a 12-minute run the visitors couldn't overcome.

Though, considering all the circumstances — a big deficit, a tough back-to-back, etc. — it was impressive they made it somewhat interesting. Instead of folding at halftime, the Jazz had their own scoring barrage later in the game.

Clarkson scored 13 points in the quarter and Utah cut a 16-point deficit down to a single point late in the third.

"It's easy to get wrapped up in the result, but we've had a tough stretch lately and I do really feel — and our coaching staff feels — that we've played more good basketball than bad basketball in that stretch," coach Will Hardy said.

But the Jazz didn't have Clarkson to help close the game due to a strange sequence right at the end of the third quarter.

As Desmond Bane drove inside, Clarkson winded up and swiped him across the head. It was either a purposeful hit, or a lethargic attempt to hit the ball. Regardless, it was ruled as a flagrant 2 call and ended Clarkson's night early.

The swipe, though, was just the beginning of the odd sequence.

Following the foul, Jaren Jackson Jr. came over to defend his teammate and Clarkson, as he did earlier this season, squared up and acted ready to fight. An official quickly came between the players and pulled Clarkson away before things could escalate further.

However, things didn't end there.

While laughing and sporting a wide smile, Clarkson egged on the Memphis crowd as he walked off the court. He was even about to give a Memphis fan a high-five, but then pulled his hand back at the very last moment, in the classic elementary school move. It was odd. It was silly. Some might have even found it funny.

Indeed, the whole scene was definitely something.

"The incident with Jordan is that's a part of the games sometimes," Hardy said. "So we lost him and we had to make an adjustment."

An adjustment that didn't lead to a win.

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