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The Utah Jazz lose a heartbreaker against the 76ers

Jordan Clarkson showed out but it wasn’t quite enough

Cleveland Cavaliers v Utah Jazz Photo by Jeff Swinger/NBAE via Getty Images

The Utah Jazz scrapped and fought to have a chance to win their game on Saturday night against the Philadephia 76ers but ultimately came up just short.

The Jazz were without Lauri Markkanen, Kelly Olynyk, Collin Sexton, and Rudy Gay. Despite the short-handed roster and the star-studded opponent, Utah fought all game. After getting down big early, even allowing a 20-point deficit, the Jazz found their stride and clawed back into the game.

In his ninth NBA start, the rookie Walker Kessler had the unenviable assignment of defending Joel Embiid. While you can never shut down a superstar of Embiid’s caliber, you can make life difficult for him, and Kessler did just that.

With soon-to-be All-Star Lauri Markkanen sidelined tonight, Jordan Clarkson took the wheel on offense. He scored from all over the court and was Utah’s go-to guy all game long. Utah’s big run was led by Clarkson, Kessler, and “the hyphens,” Talen Horton-Tucker and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. The young wings have seen their minutes go up and down throughout the season, but they were ready to contribute tonight. The combined energy of Horton-Tucker, Alexander-Walker, Kessler, and Ochai Agbaji brought the arena to life.

In the fourth quarter, Embiid and James Harden took over. Clarkson’s shotmaking kept Utah in it, but clutch shots from both of Philadelphia’s stars were too much to overcome, and Utah fell to the 76ers 118-117.

Player of the game

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Clarkson went toe-to-toe with Embiid and Harden and nearly had enough to win it for the Jazz. He put up a huge stat line of 38 points, nine rebounds, and five assists.

Honorable mentions to Walker Kessler, who played a great game on both sides of the court. He recorded 15 points with no misses, 12 rebounds, and two blocks. Kessler continues to show that he should have been a lottery pick in the 2022 NBA draft.

Talen Horton-Tucker also deserves a shoutout for his 20-point, six-rebound, two-block night. He was instrumental in Utah’s comeback. The battle for the backup guard/wing minutes is something to watch.

Unfiltered Thoughts

  • Kessler doesn’t play like a rookie. Half the time, I forget he is one.
  • Agbaji does play like a rookie. That’s ok; most rookies do. But he will need to keep working to find more ways to impact the game.
  • Malik Beasley is just ice-cold. When Malik Beasley is ice-cold, it’s hard to see why he’s on the court.
  • Jordan Clarkson has no fear.
  • Will Hardy needs to work on his Coach’s Challenge decisions. In most games, he doesn’t use it at all. Pure waste. Tonight he used it successfully, which is great! But it wasn’t even a possession that resulted in points. Just an out-of-bounds call. That’s not great value for your challenge. I know, nitpicky, but I’d be surprised if any NBA coach is getting less value from their challenges.
  • Mike Conley has been quietly performing well recently. 14 and 8 tonight.
  • NAW is an exciting player. He can do a bit of everything.
  • NAW vs. THT vs. Ochai is an interesting battle. Ochai is the lesser player of the three, but he may have the most raw ability to develop.
  • THT and NAW having nearly identical chase-down blocks that they immediately saved by throwing the ball off the shooter out-of-bounds is wild.

The Utah Jazz will travel to Minnesota for their next game against Rudy Gobert and the Timberwolves on Monday, January 16, 2023.