Jordan Clarkson’s shooting slump ends with a 30-point frenzy against the Hawks
Teammate Donovan Mitchell was certain Clarkson was going to snap out of slump against the Hawks — and he was right
ATLANTA — Donovan Mitchell approached Jordan Clarkson before the game against the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night and told the reigning Sixth Man of the Year that it was going to happen.
Mitchell was certain that Clarkson was going to break out of the shooting slump he’d been in for the first few games of the season — and Mitchell was right.
Clarkson went off for 25 second-half points, finishing the night with a game-high 30 points (also a season-high for Clarkson) and broke the game open for the Utah Jazz.
“That’s why I love this team,” Clarkson said. “I love my teammates, love the coaching staff, love this organization. They all believe in me and believe in what I can do. It’s just beautiful. It’s why you want to go out there and win a bunch of games and play hard and compete for each other. I’m very thankful for that.”
Through the first seven games of the season Clarkson was shooting just 20% from 3-point range and was getting unlucky bounces on a number of his interior drives. He was missing shots that seemingly always go in — his short floaters and push shots, jump-stop bunnies, layups. Sometimes shots would roll around the rim and pop out. It was like there was something in the net taunting him.
Through it all, every player on the team, every coach kept telling Clarkson to continue shooting, so he did. In the two games leading up to Thursday, Clarkson went 0-of-18 from 3 and scored just one bucket for two points against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night — his lowest scoring night in a Jazz uniform.
Things didn’t look great through the first half for Clarkson. He continued to miss shots and there was a moment in the first quarter where he passed up an open corner 3, uncharacteristically, and for a second it looked like he might have gotten into his head a bit.
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said that he’s pulled guys out of games in the past when they are having bad shooting stretches, but Clarkson isn’t a player that he would go that far with because he knew that it was only a matter of time before the ball started to go in. The seal was broken against the Hawks and then it seemed like Clarkson couldn’t miss.
Midway through Clarkson’s second-half scoring frenzy, he got the ball in the left corner right in front of the Jazz’s bench. De’Andre Hunter was guarding Clarkson, but it was clear that Clarkson was going to take him as soon as he started going into his patented speed dribble in between his legs. Right behind him was Mitchell, in street clothes with a sore ankle, mimicking Clarkson’s move and hyping him up.
“I heard him the whole time,” Clarkson said with a laugh. “He was like, ‘Oh yeah, yeah, this is it right here,’ and then seeing him do it. ... He knows what I’m getting to when I see someone in the corner like that, he knows what I’m going to. That’s pretty dope though, that’s an All-Star. Having that support from him is amazing.”
Clarkson has maintained that the scoring and the points aren’t what he’s concerned with this season, that he’s more focused on competing defensively and letting the points happen without forcing anything.
He’s been praised this season for his impact on the game despite his scoring struggles and so far achieved what he’s set out to do. But it’s natural, as Joe Ingles explained, to feel like you’re letting the team down when you’re missing shots. But Ingles said the team has told Clarkson that the only way he’d let them down is if he stopped shooting or stopped being himself.
So, in perfect Jordan Clarkson fashion, he never stopped being himself, never stopped shooting, and put the team on his shoulders to the tune of 30 points for a road win in Atlanta.