Jordan Clarkson insists he still is trying to get into a flow after just two games with the Utah Jazz. That suggests impressive performances are ahead.
Despite the unfamiliarity, Clarkson scored 19 points as the Utah Jazz beat the Los Angeles Clippers 120-107 on Saturday night. A more familiar sight was the 30 points from Donovan Mitchell.
“These guys are just talking to me, a lot, just giving me pointers on calls and everything so that’s helping me come along fast,” Clarkson said. “I know it’s just basically Day 2 for me, but yeah, it’s a good one.”
Clarkson, who was acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, came off the bench to shoot 7 of 13 from the field. The Jazz shot 48.6% from 3-point range to win for the seventh time in eight games.
Clarkson was scoring 14.6 points in 20 games for the Cavaliers to start the season, with all 29 of his games off the bench. He is expected to reprise that role with the Jazz, no matter how long it takes guard Mike Conley to return from a hamstring injury. Conley has missed 10 of the last 11 games.
Kawhi Leonard scored 20 points and Paul George added 19 for the Clippers, who have traded victories and defeats over the past eight games. They were coming off an impressive victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in a Christmas day showdown.
The Jazz scored the last 11 points of the game to seal the victory, holding the Clippers scoreless over the final 3:35. The Clippers made just four field goals in the fourth quarter.
George was 6 for 20 from the field and 0 for 3 in the decisive final quarter.
“He is just not making shots,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said of George. “And we have to do a better job of getting him shots. So the offense has got to run better for him to get shots.”
Rivers said Leonard was under the weather but still played Saturday as a flu bug has started to make its way through the locker room.
“It has nothing to do with our performance tonight,” said Leonard, who admitted to not feeling his best. “We had a chance to win the game. We missed some open shots. (The effect) is probably just on our energy a little bit.”
Utah won despite just 12 points and eight rebounds from Rudy Gobert. The Clippers won the battle inside as Ivica Zubac had 15 points and 12 rebounds, but little else went right for Los Angeles.
“I think the biggest problem (early) was myself and physicality,” Gobert said. “I wasn’t locked in during the first quarter, especially on defensive rebounds. Ads a team, and especially with myself we just turned it around in the second half.”
Bojan Bogdanovic had 17 points for the Jazz, while Joe Ingles added 15. Royce O’Neal had 11 points and all five Utah starters scored in double figures.
Lou Williams had 16 points off the bench for the Clippers, while Patrick Beverley added 12. The last time the Clippers won consecutive games was during a four-game winning streak that ended Dec. 13.
The Clippers started fast, taking a 32-22 lead after one quarter. The Jazz rallied behind 62.5% shooting from the field in the second quarter and 68.4% in the third. Utah took a 93-92 advantage into the fourth quarter.
After missing their first four shots in the fourth quarter, the Jazz trailed 96-93. But, Utah pushed back in front on a dunk by Mitchell that made it 98-97 with 9:18 remaining. The Jazz increased their lead to 109-102 on a layup by Clarkson with 4:55 remaining and held off the Clippers from there.
ACTIONS, NOT WORDS
Mitchell’s 30 points came on a night when he went 13 of 23 from the field and 4 of 9 from 3-point range.
He also combined for 60 points in the first two meetings against the Clippers this season, with Rivers saying the sharpshooter looks extremely comfortable against his team that is known for its perimeter defense, especially with Beverley.
“The one thing I learned from my rookie year when playing (Beverley) is you don’t say anything,” Mitchell said of the trash-talking veteran opponent. “I think it was my third or fourth game in the league and I said something after having a little hot streak and after that, I didn’t score. Have the appropriate fear and understand they have guys who can lock in on the defensive end.”
DEEP SHOTS, NOT THOUGHTS
Clippers guard Landry Shamet went 4 for 5 from 3-point range and in the process became the sixth-fastest player to make 200 3-pointers in NBA history. He is now 202 for 483 from distance in two seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and Clippers.
So does his efficient use of the 3-point line mean anything to the 22-year-old Wichita State product?
“No,” he said succinctly.
Jazz: Bogdanovic was given a technical foul while on the bench as the third quarter was coming to a close. The Jazz will look to take advantage of an upcoming schedule that has them playing seven consecutive games against teams that are under .500 in a run that goes through Jan. 12.
Clippers: Forward Montrezl Harrell was out because of an illness, missing his first game since Nov. 2017. Last season, Harrell was one of 21 players in the NBA to play in all 82 games. Beverley went to the locker room with a right wrist injury early in the third quarter but returned to the game. After the game, Rivers said he was still trying to find out the severity of the injury.
Jazz: Host the Detroit Pistons on Monday.
Clippers: At Sacramento Kings on Tuesday afternoon.