ATLANTA (ABC4 Sports) – When teams are at full strength, they have a tough time handling the Utah Jazz these days.
But without two of its top players, the Atlanta Hawks had little chance Thursday night.
Jordan Clarkson sank five 3-pointers while scoring 23 points and the Utah Jazz protected the NBA’s best record with a runaway 112-91 win. The victory was Utah’s 13th in its last 14 games.
Bojan Bogdanovic had 21 points and Donovan Mitchell added 18 for Utah (17-5). Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley each added 11 points.
Atlanta point guard Trae Young was held out with a bruised right calf. Rajon Rondo made his second start of the season and did not score. Another starter, forward De’Andre Hunter (right knee), missed his third consecutive game.
John Collins led Atlanta with 17 points. The Hawks have lost three consecutive games and four of their last five.
Utah couldn’t pull away from the short-handed Hawks until outscoring Atlanta 35-26 in the third period.
“In the second half I feel like we started attacking defensively,” Clarkson said. “The biggest thing that we kind of preach is getting the stops because that’s going to fuel the offense.”
Without Young, their leading scorer, the Hawks’ offense struggled.
After failing to lead at any point of its 116-92 loss at Utah on Jan. 15, Atlanta led 2-0 when Kevin Huerter opened the game with a jumper. It was the Hawks’ only lead.
Utah answered Huerter’s basket with 12 consecutive points. Mitchell had six points in the run.
The Jazz led 45-37 at halftime. The Hawks set season lows for points in any half and by shooting only 30% (15 of 50) from the field in the first half.
The Hawks’ shooting improved only slightly in the second half to finish at 32.7% (32 of 98).
Conley went to the bench after he was called for his third foul late in the first quarter, and his return helped fuel the third-quarter surge. “We’re playing at a high enough level to win the game but we can’t rely on that and we know that,” Conley said.
“That’s his experience,” Gobert said about the veteran Conley. “When he’s been in the league for 25 years, so he knows how to control the pace.”
“He’s off by about 11 [years],” Conley replied. “Rudy’s been a big help to me, so I’m not going to bash him too much.”
The Jazz, owners of the best record in the NBA, continue their road trip Friday night at Charlotte.