Not all heroes wear capes — although if anyone in the NBA could turn it into a fashion statement, it would be Jordan Clarkson.

But on Saturday night at Vivint Arena, Clarkson was the hero the Jazz so desperately needed.

Playing their fifth game in seven days and the backend of a back-to-back, Utah couldn’t afford a loss to the Sacramento Kings. With Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley, and Trent Forrest all out, the Jazz were going to need some added production — and Clarkson rose to the occasion.

The reigning sixth man of the year erupted for a career-high 45 points as Utah took down the Kings 134-125 on Saturday night in front of a loud and raucous crowd.

“It feels good. … It’s just staying the course,” Clarkson said.

“He’s a guy that’s in the gym. … He puts the time in, he knows his game, and tonight he had opportunities. … It started again with his catch-and-shoot 3s,” head coach Quin Snyder added.

Appropriately nicknamed the “Flamethrower,” Clarkson was beyond sensational on Saturday night — proof that all the work he has continuously put in would pay off at some point. He shot 15-of-21 from the field and 7-for-13 from three-point territory, constantly attacking and breaking down the Sacramento defense with ease.

It’s been an interesting season for Clarkson, but somehow he’s responded from a difficult start to emerge better than ever late in the season. Despite struggles from three-point territory for much of the year, he kept shooting from deep, knowing his shots would fall eventually — and in the meantime, he attacked the rim with a vengeance and constantly distributed the ball.

This was not a one-off game either, as Clarkson has been great for the past month and a half. But this sort of performance shows precisely what he’s capable of — and is why other teams in the Western Conference had better be wary of the Flamethrower catching fire again.

“Today, in a lot of respects for JC, was a culmination of just grinding through,” Snyder said of Clarkson. “He’s not gonna be on the all-defensive first team, and I think he’d admit that, but he cares. The last month or so, he’s been very deliberate in his work.”

While Clarkson’s night was as special as it gets, he can’t take all the credit.

When speaking with media postgame, Clarkson let them in on a secret — he had no idea this sort of performance was coming. He was just being a good teammate and listening to Conley.

After walking into Vivint Arena before tipoff, Clarkson’s point guard found him and offered him some words of wisdom — or a direct order — depending on how you look at it.

“Bro, you know what I haven’t seen you do this year?” Conley said to him. “Get 40.”

Clarkson was more than happy to oblige.

“I don’t know, it just got in my head and shots started falling,” Clarkson said. “That’s probably the best my shot’s felt all season.”

While his teammates and the crowd were understandably going insane throughout the night, it was just a standard game for Clarkson — his shots just happened to all go in. It was further evidence that grinding through the lows would produce the highest of highs and why he refused to change anything with his routine.

“I’m not changing anything, I’m not really thinking about stuff too much. … Just coming into work,” he said.

But arguably, the night’s best moment came when he left the chaos of the media room postgame and walked out into the hallway.

After a quick embrace with Mitchell, Clarkson let out a big sigh, taking in what he had just done. But then he was informed that it was not only a career night for him, but it was also a career night for the organization.

His 45 points set a new franchise record for points off the bench, an accomplishment that Clarkson had trouble putting into words when asked about it.

“I had no idea until afterward. … But I think that might be the coolest thing about it all,” he said. “You know, this is my home. Salt Lake City has accepted me and I’m proud to be here. The Jazz, this is my family, and they let me be me. … So knowing I did that for them, it means a lot.”

So, Clarkson never needed a cape to be a hero in the end — his silky smooth jumper was more than enough for the home he loves so much.


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