Clarkson scores 22 points, NBA-leading Jazz beat Rockets
HOUSTON (AP) — Jordan Clarkson scored 22 points, Joe Ingles had 21 and the NBA-leading Utah Jazz beat the Houston Rockets 112-89 on Wednesday night.
The Jazz have won four of their last five games. The 23-point margin was Utah’s most-lopsided victory over Houston since a 118-91 blowout Dec. 6, 2018.
Clarkson and Ingles are both contenders for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award. While Clarkson provided his usual high-energy spark off the bench, Ingles got the start on Wednesday night.
“I’ve never in my life thought about it,” Ingles said about his front-runner status. “I don’t know if he does. We’ve never had a conversation about it. It doesn’t affect me or my thought going into a game, and I’d feel pretty confident saying the same for (Clarkson). We take pride in our role of coming off the bench.”
With Donovan Mitchell out at least the next week with a right ankle sprain, Jazz coach Quin Snyder said everyone has stepped up, including Ingles.
“I don’t think his minutes are dictating how he’s playing, whether he’s starting or finishing,” Snyder said. “I just want him to play a certain way, and that’s what he’s doing right now. Any time certain players are out, guys feel that, they understand, and they know they need to be more aggressive. The thing that he’s done the best is, he’s been able to adjust to those things, whether he’s starting or coming off the bench.”
Rudy Gobert had 19 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks for Utah, Mike Conley had 11 points and 13 assists, Bojan Bogdanovic scored 14 points, and Georges Niang added 13. Conley had his fourth straight game with double-digit assists after previously reaching that mark only twice this season.
“I’ve never really been a part of a team like this in my career,” Conley said. “I’ve got a lot of options.”
John Wall led Houston with 21 points and six assists. Christian Wood had 16 points and eight rebounds, and Kelly Olynyk had 10 points.
The Rockets have lost seven of their last eight and 12 of their last 14. Houston is 4-33 since Feb. 4.
Utah led 34-27 at the end of the first quarter, capped off by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Niang. The Jazz led 61-43 at halftime and entered the fourth quarter up 91-63.
The Jazz shot 45.6% from the field, making 17 of 46 from beyond the arc, good for 37%. Houston shot 20.4% from 3-point range, making just 10 of 49 attempts.
One of the lone highlights for Houston in the game was a block from Kenyon Martin Jr. on a Gobert dunk attempt in the second quarter. Martin’s head nearly hit the rim on the block.
“There isn’t a night in the NBA -- this is my 20th year -- there isn’t one night that there isn’t a play that makes you say, ‘Wow,’ and that was one of those,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said.
Jazz: Udoka Azubuike (severe right ankle sprain) was sidelined. Ersan Ilyasova (left hamstring tightness) was upgraded from questionable to available shortly before tipoff and played four minutes in the fourth quarter. … Utah’s backups outscored Houston’s bench 45-28.
Rockets: Houston coach Stephen Silas said Kevin Porter Jr. (health and safety protocols) will be out until Sunday. … D.J. Augustin (left ankle sprain) remained sidelined. … Eric Gordon, who has been sidelined since March 11 with a groin strain, participated in a pregame individual shootaround workout.
SIXTH MAN COMPETITION
With Ingles and Clarkson both contenders for the Sixth Man of the Year Award, Snyder joked before the game that he hopes they both compete for the Defensive Player of the Year award. “Although, I don’t know if Rudy (Gobert) would accept that.”
WHEN IT’S IN THE BAG…
Snyder said it’s a struggle when holding big fourth-quarter leads, knowing when to sub reserves and pull the starters.
“There’s math that tells you about win probabilities, but what those things don’t take into account are lineups, who you’re playing and who they’re throwing out there. You can be up 20 and win the game by four points, and even though you still won, it feels like a different game. We want to give our young guys a chance to play. I think that’s important for them. And you also want guys to play with other players that are in rotation.”
Jazz: Host Minnesota on Saturday night.
Rockets: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.