SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic are rounding into form at the right time.
Clarkson scored 30 points, Bogdanovic added 24 and the Utah Jazz routed the San Antonio Spurs 126-94 on Wednesday night.
Bogdanovic helped stake the Jazz to an early lead and Clarkson pushed it out of reach.
“Just trying to be aggressive, I know the team needs me to score more without especially Donovan (Mitchell),” Bogdanovic said.
With Atlanta’s 135-103 victory over Phoenix, the Jazz reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the NBA and Western Conference playoff race despite the All-Star backcourt of Mitchell (ankle) and Mike Conley (hamstring) missing another game.
Luka Samanic scored 15 points to lead the Spurs for the first time this season. Devin Vassell and Drew Eubanks each had 14 for the Spurs. They have lost five straight as they fight for the final spot in the NBA play-in tournament.
“You go through adversity sometimes,” DeMar DeRozan said. “You can’t let it diminish your confidence. We still got six games left. Still six opportunities for us to be able to put ourselves in a position to keep playing,”
Bogdanovic missed the playoffs last season experienced after undergoing wrist surgery and many of his teammates said that was the biggest reason for their first-round exit.
Bogdanovic struggled to regain his touch early in the season and then shot only 36 percent in the month of March. He struggled with consistency on his vaunted 3-point shot as well as converting his drives to the basket.
Lately, it seems the forward from Croatia can’t miss. He went 10 for 13 from the field — 3 for 4 on 3-pointers — and has averaged 25.8 points over his last five games.
“Finding our rhythm, it’s great. Right now we are trying figure out how to play without Donovan and Mike we are trying to run more … so it’s good for me to get my confidence back and be ready for the playoffs,” Bogdanovic said.
The same goes for Clarkson, who shot 34% in March, but seemed more like the odds-on favorite for the Sixth Man of the Year against San Antonio. He hit 12 of 16 shots on a variety of floaters, hook shots, layups and 3-pointers.
“I’m a hooper. I’m going to shoot my shots,” Clarkson said. “I’m going to keep trying to make the plays and when they fall, it feels good. I’m always confident and I’m always going to take those shots and keep it rolling.”
It certainly was rolling for the Jazz, who shot 55.7% and led by as many as 41 points. They have won the first three of their five-game stand.
“Tonight, obviously, it was going in. Both of them are making quick decisions when they receive the ball and they’re making quick reads, good decisions — when to shoot, when to drive, and when to pass,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said.
Spurs: DeRozan had six points, his lowest scoring output since a Jan. 30 loss to Memphis. … Trey Lyles and Derrick White (right ankle sprain) sat out with ankle injuries. … Spurs won the turnover battle 18-7 but were on the wrong end of almost every other team statistic.
Jazz: The Jazz outscored the Spurs 25-6 on fast-break points. … No Utah players logged more than 26 minutes. … Joe Ingles, who had 14 points and seven assists, capped a 24-3 with a 3-pointer in the first half to deflate the Spurs’ hopes.
DON’T BE MACHO, LET THE YOUNG GUYS RUN
“We weren’t going to win the game, so it wouldn’t have made much sense to play Mr. Macho and keep them out there,” Popovich said about resting the starters most of the second half.
But the coach liked what he saw with his young players.
“I thought the young guys really performed well. Did a very good job. They competed. They executed very well,” Popovich said.
PRIMED FOR THE PLAYOFFS
As much as winning, the Jazz are focused on peaking at the right time, according to Clarkson. Winning big and allowing primary players to rest for the final quarter is preparing the Jazz for the season’s stretch run, mentally and physically.
“At this point in the year, you obviously want to try to stay fresh. Right now, to me it’s more of an emotional thing as well as you get towards the end of the year. Being able to play through fatigue, really no matter how many minutes you have, you just need to play the right way,” Snyder said.
Spurs: At Sacramento on Friday night.
Jazz: Host Denver on Friday night.