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Birthday boy Joe Ingles makes debut, gets hot to lead Utah Jazz over Toronto Raptors

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz wing Joe Ingles had mixed feelings about playing on Tuesday night at Vivint Arena against the Toronto Raptors.

On one hand, he was happy to finally hit the court after he was held out of the Jazz’s preseason opener last Friday because of injury against a team from his native Australia, the Perth Wildcats.

On the other hand, it was his 31st birthday, and he said he’d rather be home celebrating with his wife and kids. Ever the jokester, Ingles went so far as to say he’s starting to dislike having to play on his birthday.

Based on his performance Tuesday, maybe Ingles should like suiting up every Oct. 2.

Ingles wound up leading Utah with 24 points, all of which came in the first three quarters of play as Jazz head coach Quin Snyder rested his starters in the fourth. For the night, Ingles made eight of his 15 field goal attempts, including 5 of 11 of his 3-point tries.

It didn’t come easy early, however. After a rare breakaway dunk in the first minute, he missed his first three shots from downtown in the opening quarter and five of his first six overall. But with 1:38 remaining in the second quarter and Utah having put up just eight points in the frame, Ingles caught fire, scoring 10 straight points, including two 3-pointers.

Suddenly what was a 15-point Jazz deficit was a more manageable nine heading into halftime, and Ingles had 16 points.

“I wasn’t really thinking too much about it,” he said. “If it was there, I was going to shoot it. If not, make the right play.”

While Ingles was somewhat nonchalant about his performance, Snyder had a bit of a different take on it. He said he’s been encouraging the fifth-year wing to be more aggressive given his ability to connect from beyond the arc, and he was happy Ingles kept shooting despite struggling early.

“In some ways it was good that he missed a couple early,” Snyder said. “A couple of years ago, he wouldn’t have shut it down, but he wouldn’t have stayed quite as aggressive.”

Looking at the bigger picture of the season that’s to come, Snyder said he needs Ingles to keep having that aggressive mindset, especially as it relates to taking shots.

“He’s being selfish if he’s not taking that many 3s, because he’s too good of a shooter to go through a game and only take three or four 3s,” Snyder said. “He may not get 11 every game, but we want him to be that aggressive, and I think some of it for him, that’s the improvement, is just continuing to play with the confidence that we have in him, and I think he’s got that in himself. I know his teammates have it in him.”

Next up for the Jazz is a Friday night game at Vivint Arena against Ingles’ hometown team, the Adelaide 36ers.

“It’ll be good to see them on Friday,” Ingles said, “play against those guys and catch up with them a little bit.”