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“Just go out and play” |  Utah takes over in second half for win

Throughout the season, Utah head coach Quin Snyder has made it clear that he and his coaching staff will prioritize health over winning. That’s why he had no problem resting players throughout the season, often sitting them down to prevent minor issues from turning into serious injuries.

So after Utah had a tough, physical battle against Memphis on Tuesday night — and with the playoffs just over a week away — choosing to rest some of its regulars against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night was a simple decision for Snyder.

It also helps when you’re widely regarded as one of the deepest teams in the league.

Taking control early in the first quarter and never giving up the lead the rest of the way, Utah beat Oklahoma City 137-101 in front of a packed crowd at Vivint Arena. With the win, the Jazz remain fifth in the Western Conference playoffs, one game ahead of sixth-seeded Denver and two games behind fourth-seeded Dallas.

Jordan Clarkson has continued his phenomenal play of late, notching his first career double-double in a Utah uniform when he finished with 18 points, 10 assists and a +25 rating in 29 minutes. He was again extremely efficient, shooting 7 of 11 from the field and 4 of 6 from outside the arc.

While points and efficiency are always good to see from someone as talented as Clarkson scoring the ball, his play and passing really set him apart tonight.

With Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley both absent, Clarkson took on the role of facilitator and thrived. He constantly got into the paint and was never rushed, which allowed him to split the Oklahoma City defense by finding the open man.

In what has been an up and down season for Jared Butler, the rookie had one of the best games of his young career when he finished with a career-high 10 assists. Although he struggled to shoot the ball, he finished with seven points, six rebounds and three steals, showing his growth and development.

Playing behind Mitchell, Conley and Clarkson, minutes would be hard to come by for Butler, a concept he struggled with slightly at the start of the season. But then a turnaround changed halfway through, allowing him to see this year no longer as a season but more as a learning experience.

Since then, this has allowed Butler to play freely when opportunities arise, which he did on Wednesday night. He’s much more comfortable acting as a floor general than just being a scorer, a common mistake he made right out of college.

“You’d think I’d be like ‘oh, this is my only opportunity to show what I can do,’ but it’s not like that at all,” Butler said. “But when I take a closer look, it’s not that bad. I just want to stay locked in and produce in any way I can to help. I feel like there should be a lot of pressure, but I go out and play, helping out however I can.

With both teams playing shorthanded, the game lacked the typical energy you would normally see as Utah and Oklahoma City both tried to figure each other out and find a rhythm. It allowed for a back-and-forth start to the quarter, but the Jazz went on a 16-2 run late in the first and never looked back.

The Jazz were able to hold onto their double-digit lead for most of the quarter before Oklahoma City, behind the strength of their shot from beyond the arc, went on an 11-0 run to close the lead. of Utah at 55-53 halfway through the second. However, the Jazz responded with a 16-5 run to end the half, taking a 71-58 lead at the break.

The third quarter played out much the same as the second, with the Thunder making a mini-run to cut Utah’s lead to nine. But that’s when the Jazz started to put the nail in the coffin, going on a 15-3 run to close out the third and lead 106-85 going into the fourth.

Utah closed out the game strong, beating Oklahoma City 31-16 in the final 12 minutes as Nickeil Alexander-Walker dropped nine points in the quarter to help the Jazz claim victory.

Bojan Bogdanovic finished with a game-high 27 points, while Rudy Gobert added another double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. Hassan Whiteside also finished with a double-double of 15 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks in just 17 minutes of action. Danuel House finished with 14 points while Rudy Gay added 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

Utah has Thursday off before hosting league-leading Phoenix in the final regular-season home game on Friday night — kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. MST.


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