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SALT LAKE CITY — There was a time on Thursday that a Joe Ingles shoving match with Jake Layman (you’re forgiven if you’re asking, “Who?” right now) during the first half threatened to be the most interesting thing about Utah’s 128-116 win over Minnesota.
Ingles annoyed someone who’s played in just 12 games before Thursday and had never seen significant playing time seemed strange — if not a little on brand. It was a sideshow, pure and simple; but it shouldn’t be the most memorable part of a game.
Thankfully, Jordan Clarkson saved us all.
Near the end of the first half, Clarkson surprised just about everyone.
Like he so often does, Clarkson had the ball in his hands in the waning moments of the shot clock; he had a couple seconds to save a possession. Instead of settling for what would have been a step-back contested 3-pointer or an off-balance floater, Clarkson went full tilt right to the rim.
“I told him I thought his shot was gonna get blocked,” Donovan Mitchell said. “I thought he was gonna put up there and then they were gonna meet at the top and go block it.”
If you talk to most people watching, they probably would have had a similar thought; but there was no block.
Clarkson shocked everyone by slamming it over both Naz Reid and Jaden McDaniels, causing the Jazz bench to go into a confused celebration. Just about everyone leaped off the bench, not quite understanding what they had just seen. Only Udoka Azubuike stayed seated, but his eyes widened like he had seen a ghost.
On the court, Mitchell had his hands on his head not quite believing what he had just seen.
“Every once in a while JC reminds you of his younger days back in LA when he was dunking on everybody,” Mitchell said. “That was impressive. Over two guys who can get up, too; that was impressive.”
Heck, even Clarkson seemed surprised at what he had just done. He ended up in the corner surrounded by teammates and got lucky when Minnesota coach Chris Finch called timeout. There was no way he was getting back down the court to play defense.
“I think he caught everybody off guard. That was a dope finish,” Rudy Gobert said. “I want to see more of this. I need to see more of that.”
It was a startling play and a spectacular dunk. Funny enough, though, it came on an off-shooting night. He was just 2 of 9 from the field Thursday but provided positives elsewhere. Clarkson continued his string of solid playmaking by finishing with seven assists.
“There’s a number of times that both he and Donovan made kind of a hockey assist,” Snyder said. “And obviously, the fact that they both got seven assists says a lot about who they are — that you can score and then when the defense starts playing you a certain way tonight (they adjust).”
That meant passing. Or, for at least one possession, just jumping over everyone.