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Clarkson, Markkanen help Jazz rally past Raptors

TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors will have thoughts of Jordan Clarkson and Lauri Markkanen dancing in their heads over the NBA’s holiday break.

Clarkson scored 16 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter and Markkanen added nine of his 30 in the final frame as the Utah Jazz rallied past Toronto 126-119 on Saturday. The Raptors led by as many as 17 points in the first three quarters before getting outscored 41-21 in the fourth.

“It’s tough, obviously, because we felt it was a winnable game but it kind of got away from us,” said all-star Pascal Siakam about not playing again until Wednesday in Washington. “I think it’s gonna stink, but not much you can do, we’ve got to just move on to the next one.

“Get some days to relax, get your mind off it a little bit and then come back and try to rectify what we didn’t do well out there.”

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Siakam had 19 points and nine rebounds in his 500th career game for the Raptors. He joined DeMar DeRozan (675), Kyle Lowry (601), Morris Peterson (542), José Calderón (525) and Chris Bosh (509) as the only players to appear in 500 games with Toronto.

“I’m just grateful to be able to play the game,” said Siakam. “To play 500 games, for someone like me, it’s not given every single day so you’ve got to be grateful.

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“I’m just blessed that I’m able to do that and I hope I can play a lot more.”

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Scottie Barnes had a double-double with 14 rebounds and matched his career high of 32 points as Toronto (11-18) lost its third straight. OG Anunoby added 19 points.

Barnes had 24 of his points in the first half, but Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic was positive despite the forward’s drop-off in the game’s critical fourth.

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“He lost a little bit of momentum there with a couple of (missed) shots,” said Rajakovic. “I thought some of those shots were good shots as well.”

Markkanen also had nine rebounds and five assists in Utah’s (12-18) comeback.

Barnes had 17 points, including three three-pointers, in the first quarter as Toronto built a 34-31 lead. It was a new career-high in points for Barnes in a first quarter, topping the 15 he had in Los Angeles against the Lakers on March 14, 2022.

“I was just taking wide open shots,” said Barnes. “They were helping a lot — there was easy kickouts and the shots were falling.”

Anunoby’s two-handed dunk with 5:24 left in the second brought the 19,420 at Scotiabank Arena to their feet and capped off a 12-2 run that extended Toronto’s lead to 16 points. The Raptors held a 71-55 lead at intermission.

Gary Trent Jr. drilled a three-pointer for the final score of the third quarter as Toronto maintained its edge over the visitors to take a 98-85 lead into the final frame.

Utah opened the fourth with a 10-0 run to pull within three points of the Raptors until Barnes dished out his fifth assist of the night to Chris Boucher, who sank a corner three with 9:04 to go.

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The Jazz didn’t relent, however, with Clarkson making a put-back tip shot to tie it 104-104 with 6:44 to go. After a Raptors timeout, Markkanen made a field goal for Utah’s first lead of the game.

Schroeder responded with an 18-foot jumper to tie it up, but Markkanen had his own jumper and then Ochal Agbaji hit two free throws for a four-point Jazz lead.

Markkanen and Clarkson poured it on with back-to-back threes as Utah had another run in the fourth.

Barnes made a two-foot shot to match his career high and breathe life into the Raptors faithful. But with the crowd loudly chanting “DE-FENCE!” Siakam fouled Clarkson beyond the arc and the Jazz guard made all three of his free throws for a nine-point lead with 91 seconds left in the game.

Clarkson hit another three with 29 seconds left to play as fans started heading for the exits.

Siakam had a layup, but Sexton made his two free throws, before Toronto point guard Dennis Schroder sank a three-pointer for the game’s final score.

OLYNYK HOMECOMING — Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk, who was born in Toronto but raised in Kamloops, B.C., said tickets to Saturday’s game were in high demand amongst his family and friends.

“Basically, as many as you can get,” said Olynyk. “If I could buy two more I could have two more people here.”

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UP NEXT — Utah continues its road trip with a stop in San Antonio on Boxing Day.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 23, 2023.

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