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Analysis: Jared Butler, Jordan Clarkson star as Jazz cruise to victory over tanking Thunder

The Jazz made easy work of the Thunder, who have no intention of winning games.

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Oklahoma City Thunder forward Lindy Waters III (12) tries to guard Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) as the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder play an NBA basketball game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 6, 2022.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The Utah Jazz beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 137-101, on Wednesday night at Vivint Arena.

High Notes

  • For a game in which Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley and Royce O’Neale were all resting, against one of the worst teams in the league that has no chance of contending for anything other than another lottery pick, there were a surprising number of people at the game! There are a lot of markets that would not have had this kind of turnout on a Wednesday night in the final days of the regular season. I was really impressed by the Jazz fans.
  • It would have been really hard for the Jazz to lose this game, even if they’d tried to. The Thunder are seasoned in tanking. They started Zavier Simpson, whose only other NBA game was Tuesday, and the in-arena team didn’t even have an NBA photo of him to use when announcing the starting lineup on the big screen at Vivint. So the Jazz were going to win this game no matter what, but that doesn’t mean that it was completely boring! There were some fun things.
  • Melvin Frazier Jr. did something I’ve never seen before — he shot a ledgie! His finger roll was so soft that the ball  landed on the ledge of the hoop and bounced ever so slightly before coming to a dead stop, resulting in a jump ball. It was excellent.

  • Jordan Clarkson notched his first double-double in a Jazz uniform by dishing out 10 assists, just one shy of his career high.
  • Jared Butler got some extended run on Wednesday which makes me think a lot about the future for the Jazz. The way this offseason goes is so dependent on how the Jazz perform in the playoffs, and in turn Butler’s role on this team is dependent on the Jazz’s playoff performance. If the Jazz decide to pivot away from the current core, Butler could be looking at a lot more playing time and a bigger role. For all we know he could be packaged in a trade. The point is, there have been flashes from Butler this season, and it’s exciting to think about what could be around the corner for him, especially if it’s on this team and especially considering how much he’s been learning this year.
  • Rudy Gay played like he was 23 years old, diving for loose balls, chasing guys down on close outs, glued to ball-handlers when switched out. 
    “To be a vet like that and to have discussions about him being situational... and for him to step up and be ready and play with emotion and energy — I mean, he’s diving on the floor for loose balls. It’s good to see.” —Jazz head coach Quin Snyder

Low Notes

  • Aleksej Pokusevski did not play for the Thunder and that is disappointing. As a basketball junkie it’s fun to watch interesting and fun players who are unique, and when they don’t play it’s not fun. The Thunder are tanking and they hate fun.
  • The Jazz took another step toward securing a top five finish in the Western Conference. They are in fifth now and would play the Dallas Mavericks if the playoffs started tomorrow, but they could still end up playing the Golden State Warriors or Denver Nuggets because the 3rd through 6th seeds are all still in flux. The low part of this is that both the Warriors and the Mavericks definitely want to play the Jazz because nobody wants anything to do with Denver’s Nikola Jokic. It’s not a great place to be in when other teams will be hoping you are their first-round opponent, but the silver lining there is that the Jazz could upset a team and flip the script if they beat any of those teams in the first round because right now there’s not anyone expecting it from them.

Flat Notes

  • Trent Forrest, in his return from a concussion, started the game in place of Conley, but then he left the game after spraining his left foot. Just a bad turn of events in the final days of the season. Hopefully he won’t need much time away and it’s just something minor. We still don’t know what the Jazz are going to do with their final roster spot for the playoffs. If Forrest is going to be injured then he might not get that spot, which is a thing I’ve been wondering and thinking about for a while. Who gets that spot? Is it Greg Monroe? Is it Forrest? Is it someone else? We’ll see.
    “It’s been tough on him. He was playing really well tonight. He’s unique in some of the things he can do.” —Jazz head coach Quin Snyder