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Clarkson scores 27 points to help surging Jazz beat Nuggets

Jordan Clarkson Utah Jazz Jordan Clarkson - The Canadian Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Jordan Clarkson had 27 points and nine assists to send the Utah Jazz past the Denver Nuggets 124-111 on Wednesday night for their ninth victory in 11 games.

“We're having fun!” Clarkson said. “I draw a lot of attention on the offensive end, so I'm just slowing down and trying to make the plays for my teammates. ... It's spacing and opportunity.”

After beating Philadelphia and Milwaukee on the road, Utah earned its third win in five days over an elite team by taking down the defending NBA champions.

“They’re playing really hard," Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “The way they’re rooting for each other and moving the ball and really playing as a team, it feels good."

Lauri Markkanen added 26 points and 12 rebounds, Collin Sexton scored 22 and John Collins had 15 points for the Jazz (19-20), who shot 55% from the field and finished with 18 fast-break points.

“We're building chemistry, really learning our identity, how to play on both sides of the ball — truly playing together,” Markkanen said.

Nikola Jokic scored 27 points for the Nuggets and was nearly perfect shooting: 8 for 9 from the floor and 10 of 12 at the foul line. But he didn’t get much help.

Denver had won six straight road games since a Dec. 6 defeat at the Los Angeles Clippers.

“They played harder than us. I think that was the most obvious thing for me,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “They came out with tremendous energy. They attacked us for 48 (minutes) and I didn’t think we came close to matching that.”

Jamal Murray scored 17 points, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Aaron Gordon each had 12 for the Nuggets (26-13).

Jazz reserves, a key to the team’s recent surge, outscored their Denver counterparts 53-38 as Utah won its sixth in a row at home.

Clarkson is the leader of the bench gang and he shot 12 for 19 and had three 3-pointers along with a bundle of highlight-reel passes to teammates for dunks and open jumpers.

“Jordan is understanding the impact that he can have on the entire team,” Hardy said. “He is just in a really good flow right now. I think he’s seeing ... that you can still score a lot of points and move the ball.”

Denver trimmed a 23-point deficit to 13 in the third quarter, but the Jazz responded with a quick 9-2 run.

“If we continue to do this, we’re going to take a real nosedive," Malone said. “That’s the reality of it. We’re playing against some really, really talented teams that are having great seasons and if we don’t come with a workman-like mentality, there’s gonna be more nights like this."

Jokic was visibly frustrated when Markkanen’s driving layup put the Jazz back up by 20. He slammed the ball on the court and shook his head while going to the timeout huddle.

“Of course you get frustrated, but I’m trying to keep myself calm and just trying to help the team to somehow win the game,” said Jokic, who had six turnovers.

The Nuggets have lost six straight in Salt Lake City. Their last win was Feb. 5, 2020.

The Jazz closed the first half on a 19-7 run to lead 71-53 at the break. Clarkson, who had 16 points and seven assists in the half, scored or assisted on 11 of Utah’s 13 second-quarter baskets.


Nuggets: Host the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.

Jazz: Host the Toronto Raptors on Friday night.