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Analysis: Jordan Clarkson leads second-half comeback against the Hawks

The Jazz beat the Atlanta Hawks 116-98 in the first of a three-game road trip. Clarkson had just five points at halftime, but caught fire and finished with a season-high 30 points

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson drives as Atlanta Hawks forward Cam Reddish defends.
Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) drives as Atlanta Hawks forward Cam Reddish (22) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, in Atlanta.
John Bazemore, Associated Press

The Utah Jazz beat the Atlanta Hawks 116-98 in the first of a three-game road trip Thursday night at State Farm Arena. After a slow start the Jazz caught fire in the second half, blowing the game open to allow for some garbage time minutes at the end.

High notes

  • Despite all of the slander, despite all of the doubting, including some fans calling for Jordan Clarkson to be benched because of his recent slump, he has continued to shoot and continued to relentlessly be himself. That paid off in the second half against the Hawks. Clarkson had just five points at halftime, and it came on quite a few unlucky misses on shots that he normally makes, but then he scored at each level in the second half, broke his 3-point drought and finished with a season-high 30 points.
  • I give out criticism where necessary and praise when deserved, and Hassan Whiteside continues to be a pleasant surprise for the Jazz. He’s the backup big, and he’s playing in a way that makes the drop-off from Rudy Gobert a lot less noticeable than it has been the past few seasons.
  • Before the game, Jazz head coach Quin Snyder talked about how the midrange is not something that is going to disappear because when teams are taking away the 3 or when the 3s just aren’t falling, it’s important to be practiced and prepared to score from elsewhere. That’s exactly what happened to the Jazz through the first two quarters on Thursday. They couldn’t really get much going and they weren’t hitting shots from outside, but they were really utilizing the midrange. It was not a pretty half of basketball, but hitting a few buckets from inside allowed the Jazz to hang with the Hawks.
  • The Jazz played without Mike Conley in Chicago a few days ago and it did not go so well. They were playing without Donovan Mitchell (right ankle) on Thursday and it looked like it was going to go the same way as the loss to the Bulls, but the Jazz got it together in the second half and scored a ridiculous 77 points in just 24 minutes.
  • Eric Paschall does not look like he’s going to be as athletic as he is and then he fakes a 3-pointer, rushes the rim and throws down a two-handed jam that is really impressive. His bounce on the offensive glass is something that other teams are paying attention to, and even the threat of him going for an offensive board slows down the other team. That’s value.
  • Blooper, the mascot for the World Series-winning Atlanta Braves, was in the building and doing the rounds with Harry the Hawk, the Hawks mascot. I am pro-mascot and these two were very good at working the crowd and doing funny bits. Also, shoutout to the security guard that continued to pull Harry’s tail feathers and blame it on fans.

Low notes

  • It was certainly not all good from the Jazz on Thursday. The first two and a half quarters were lackluster at very best. The Jazz were losing rebounds left and right, losing out on 50-50 balls, turning the ball over, missing wide open looks and just all around looked out of sorts. That’s fine in a game where the other team also is having trouble scoring and you can come back in the second half and get it done, but the Jazz can’t get that stagnant for that long against many teams in the league. That’s not a habit they want to get in to.
  • Passing up open shots is just hard to watch. If you’re open, shoot the ball, please.

Flat notes

  • Mitchell missed the game due to a right ankle sprain sustained just before the half of Tuesday’s game against the Sacramento Kings. The Jazz expect to re-evaluate Mitchell on Friday and from all reports the injury doesn’t sound serious, as Mitchell indicated after the game on Tuesday in which he played even after rolling his ankle. I get that fans were a little worried to see Mitchell on the injury report, but before the game he was doing some warmups and then some strengthening exercises in the hallways, and those are good signs.
  • This is just something I’ve wanted to say for a while, and almost all NBA arenas are guilty of it. T-shirt tosses should include the upper bowl just as much as the lower bowl. It is not cool to watch kids yell and scream and wave their hands hoping for a shirt or any of the other swag they hand out at the games only to see all of it go to the people that have the “better” seats. I hate it.