“A Lot Of Big Plays Made” | Clarkson Catches Fire In Fourth, Utah Takes Over First Place In The West

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When Utah needed him most, Jordan Clarkson was ready.

The Flamethrower was cooking in the fourth quarter, dropping 15 points as the Jazz completed a back-to-back sweep by taking down Portland 118-113 on Saturday night. Utah, who won a 134-133 thriller against Phoenix on Friday, are now in first place in the Western Conference at 12-6.

“This game was very representative of our team this year,” head coach Will Hardy said. “We couldn’t make a shot early. … Blazers made their run late, and we responded. We had a lot of big plays made by a lot of people.”

Clarkson’s play was badly needed as point guard Mike Conley went down with a knee injury midway through the third quarter and did not return. But the Jazz never panicked, overcoming run after run by Portland to pick up the win.

Clarkson finished with 28 points and four assists, but was huge in the final two minutes. After the Trailblazers took a one-point lead, he went on a personal 8-2 run to give Utah a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Playing arguably the best basketball of his career, Malik Beasley set a season-high with 29 points off the bench — just one night after dropping a previous season-high 27. He shot 10-of-18 from the floor and 6-for- 14 beyond the arc, adding three rebounds.

Whenever Portland appeared to make a run and get back in the game — especially early in the fourth quarter, Beasley was the one who responded. He was particularly special in the second quarter, scoring 15 points while knocking down four three-pointers to turn the tide towards the Jazz.

“Jordan wanted the ball. … He’s made a lot of good decisions for us late in games,” Hardy said. “Portland was switching, and we felt like if we gave him proper spacing, he’d have room to attack. … He didn’t settle for jump shots.”

It’s clear Lauri Markkanen’s mojo made the trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Twenty-four hours after setting a career-high, he was back at it against the Trailblazers. He finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, shooting 7-of-13 from the field and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. He was sensational in the first quarter, scoring Utah’s first nine points and single-handedly keeping the Jazz in the game.

It wasn’t the greatest of starts for the Jazz, falling into an early 21-9 hole as they couldn’t buy a bucket. Led by the second unit, Utah rallied and closed the quarter on an 11-2 run — punctuated by a Simone Fontecchio three-pointer — to trail 23-20 after one.

Portland responded with three-pointers on four consecutive possessions to seize control with an 11-point lead. But again, the Jazz showed resolve with a 9-0 run, headlined by Beasley and Collin Sexton.

Trailing by three later, Utah had another offensive burst, this time an 11-2 run to take a five-point lead. After Portland cut the deficit to three, the Jazz responded with a 5-0 run in the final minute to take a 58-51 lead at the break.

After a Portland bucket to start the half, the Jazz stayed hot on offense with a 19-5 run to take a 19-point lead midway through the quarter. But led by Drew Eubanks, the Trailblazers were able to settle offensively with a 19-2 run and cut the deficit to three.

But the Jazz responded with a 5-0 run to take an 87-79 lead entering the fourth.

A bucket by Jusuf Nurkic made it a five-point game, but a 7-2 run — punctuated by a Jordan Clarkson three-pointer — gave the Jazz a 94-83 lead with 10 minutes to play. The Trailblazers refused to go away, taking advantage of a tired Jazz team with an 11-1 run to take a 106-105 lead.

But Clarkson got going again, knocking down a three-pointer and an and-one to give the Jazz a 113-108 lead they wouldn’t give up the rest of the way.

Jarred Vanderbilt added seven points and nine rebounds, while Kelly Olynyk chipped in five points, six rebounds, four assists, and three blocks.

Utah will stay on the road, returning to action on Monday night when they face the Clippers at 8 pm in Los Angeles.

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