The story of the night was Jordan Clarkson who went of for a personal, and team, record 45 points. The defense for Utah struggled to slow down De’Aaron Fox and the scoring explosion from Clarkson was vital. Clarkson scored from all over the court. He scored a scorching 15/21 (71%) from the field and shot 7/13 from three. Utah rode the Clarkson wave all night and it’s no surprise he was a team-high +17. It’s these types of nights, where the Jazz will be down core players and Clarkson goes off, that makes him so valuable. Tonight, De’Aaron Fox had his own strong night and led the Kings to a big first quarter. It’s easy to see the Jazz losing this one if they didn’t have Clarkson giving them such a huge scoring night.
It was another impressive night for Donovan Mitchell. Utah put a lineup of Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Danuel House, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Hassan Whiteside for this one. That meant Mitchell was responsible for the majority of playmaking responsibilities with the starting unit and he did well. For the game, Mitchell scored 25 with 6 assists and 5 rebounds. He was in control and moving the ball to open shooters all night. At no point did it feel like Mitchell was out of control, instead he made the right read all night long. Some of that meant just giving the ball to Clarkson and let him cook, but you can see the efficient play in Mitchell’s 11/22 from the field. He didn’t force shots and took what came to him. He only shot 1/6 from three but you can imagine the types of nights he will have in the future with this level of responsibility and when the shot is falling. The evolution of Mitchell’s game continues and it’s fun to watch.
Finally, a lot of credit needs to be given to Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside was a force in side with 12 points, 21 rebounds, and 3 blocks. When Whiteside is locked in with this team he has been great. If he can just give consistent effort like this, there’s no reason he can’t earn more contracts in the future, good ones.
It was hard not to see this game as a little bit of a glimpse of the future. Having wings surrounding Mitchell is likely the best path to victory with Mitchell as the focal point of the team. It’s exciting to see how well it worked tonight because with upgrades around Mitchell the Jazz could become really dynamic.