“Big Confidence Boost” | Utah Finds Identity In Impressive Performance

The odds were stacked against Utah on Monday night.

Playing on the road for the second game of a back-to-back against a rested Phoenix Suns squad, that’s enough to make it difficult. Add in that the Jazz were without its entire starting lineup and first man off the bench, that would seem like insurmountable odds to overcome.

However, nobody told Trent Forrest and the Jazz that.

Despite a career night by Forrest and a hot finish by Jordan Clarkson, the shorthanded Jazz ran out of steam late in the fourth quarter and fell 115-109.

“You get confidence from playing hard and playing together,” head coach Quin Snyder said postgame. “You get confidence from having an identity, and our identity as a team has gone in and out at times this year. So that confidence will come when we continue to perform at a certain level.”

Forrest went undrafted out of Florida State before signing a two-way contract with the Jazz in 2020. After playing sparingly his rookie season, Forrest showed promise later in the season filling in for the injured Mike Conley.

After another impressive showing in the 2021 summer league, Forrest has earned the trust of Snyder and his teammates, getting more minutes as the season has gone on. He rewarded Snyder for that trust with a sensational showing against what might be the best backcourt in the NBA.

Forrest finished with a career-high 17 points in a career-high 36 minutes played. He finished 8-of-12 from the floor, adding six rebounds and two assists. His ability to get into the lane and finish at the rim was sensational — but the most impressive part was how comfortable he looked being the lead guard in charge of the offense.

“One of my coaches was telling me is like, you’re most confident when I’m doing things aggressively defensively,” Forrest said. “So whether it’s picking up, trying to just bother people. … That’s kind of when I’m at my best.”

the patience > > > pic.twitter.com/vNfCeMFuAY

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) January 25, 2022

Severely shorthanded as a team, Clarkson found himself in a very rare spot — starting. The reigning sixth man of the year is best known for his electric shooting off the bench but was thrust into his first start of the season.

With Clarkson as the primary scoring threat, Phoenix made life difficult for the guard, holding him to just 13 points on 1-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc through the first 45 minutes.

The ‘flamethrower’ more than lived up to his nickname over the final 2:30 of the game, knocking down three straight three-pointers on consecutive possessions to turn an 11-point deficit into a five-point game with just over a minute to play.

He finished the game with a team-high 22 points, adding five assists, four rebounds, and two steals. He also had a special moment late in the game, knocking down his 1,000th career three-pointer.

| Jordan with 20 points + 4 made three-pointers against the Suns #TakeNote | @ZionsBank pic.twitter.com/diMdvI2eQO

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) January 25, 2022

Apart from having seven players finish in double-figures, one of the most impressive parts about Utah’s game was its defensive intensity for the entire 48 minutes.

The Jazz came into Monday’s game averaging just 6.9 steals per game — but tied that number early in the second quarter. Utah finished with 11 steals against Phoenix’s all-star backcourt.

“He’s the head coach of Utah Jazz. He can walk around with his head up, but he don’t do that,” House said of Snyder. “He wants everybody to have the same energy. He wants everybody to be on top. He wants everybody to succeed because that’s the type of person he is.”

love the bench love #TakeNote pic.twitter.com/BK8G2RFc8h

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) January 25, 2022

With so many new parts playing together for the first time all season, Utah struggled in the opening quarter on both ends of the court. They had no answer for Devin Booker (17 first quarter points) and found themselves trailing 31-21 at the end of one.

But showing a lot of heart and fight, the Jazz rallied in the second quarter as eight different players scored. Down by 13 midway through the quarter, Utah went on a 21-7 run before trailing 58-56 at the break.

The third quarter was a back-and-forth affair with 12 lead changes and neither team leading by more than five points. Trailing by four with just under a minute to play, Elijah Hughes and Jared Butler knocked down consecutive three-pointers to give Utah a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Following a pair of free throws by Rudy Gay to give the Jazz a four-point lead early in the quarter, the Suns went on a 20-5 run to take the big lead before Clarkson’s heroics. Unfortunately, the Jazz ran out of steam and couldn’t complete the comeback.

“I think that’s something that our team needs to continue to replicate night in and night out,” Snyder said. “That’s something that’s within our control. … Playing with that level of intensity.”

things that are too much fun: the rookie heating up pic.twitter.com/5AwAdaTlXG

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) January 25, 2022

Danuel House Jr. finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, while Gay finished with 13 points and five rebounds. Hassan Whiteside finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, helping every starter finish in double-figures. Eric Paschall and Butler added 14 and 13 points, respectively, off the bench.

These two teams will meet again on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City. The Jazz are expected to return multiple players in the rematch, with tipoff set for 8 p.m. MST. To purchase tickets, click HERE.

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