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Jazz welcome Gobert’s return but can’t top Pacers on the road

Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon (7) is fouled by Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
AP

INDIANAPOLIS — What could have been a triumphant return to the starting lineup didn’t pan out to the fairy-tale ending Utah Jazz nation had hoped for. Despite a solid performance by All-NBA center Rudy Gobert (14 points, 13 rebounds), the men in gold and dark navy were outplayed by their opponents in white and navy blue as the Indiana Pacers beat the Jazz 121-102 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis. It was Utah’s second straight loss as they play through a five-game road trip dropping their record to 11-7. Meanwhile, the win improves the Pacers’ record to 11-6.

Forwards Domantas Sabonis and T.J. Warren led Indiana with 23 points a piece, while Utah forward Bojan Bogdanovic led all scorers with 30 points for the Jazz in the loss. After the game, Bogdanovic said Indiana played like a hungry team right from the outset.

“From the (opening tipoff), they were the more aggressive team — both defensively and offensively. There were into us on every single pass and every single screen,” he said. “They kind of pushed us away from the basket, from our set offenses that we wanted to play and that was the main reason why we lost the game.”

Utah head coach Quin Snyder said Indiana played with more physicality, which was another big reason why they were able to pull away in the end.

“I thought they were the more aggressive team and that showed in the way they attacked the basket,” he said. “They’re difficult team for us to guard in some respects. The effort is always there with our group, (but) sometimes you execute better than others.”

After trailing by double-digits throughout the game, the Jazz closed to within three points in the closing minute of the third quarter before Indiana went on a 6-0 run to push the lead to 89-80 at the end of the third period.

“Usually when your team goes on the run at the end of the quarter, it’s a combination of things on both ends of the floor. I didn’t think we executed like we needed to offensively (and) that led to some possessions defensively where we were uphill,” Snyder said. “We all needed to be better tonight.”

The Pacers took a 53-43 lead into halftime led by forward Sabonis’ 12 points and 8 rebounds. Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles topped the Jazz with 9 points each at the half. Indiana shot nearly 49% from the field, while Utah had trouble finding their range shooting just 37% from the floor in the first half.

Utah was also unable to maintain offensive consistency in the second half, allowing Indiana to eventually build a 22-point lead at one point. Jazz center Rudy Gobert said the Pacers played with more energy all night long.

“As a defensive-minded team, when you give the ball to the opponent and you allow them to get easy baskets, you really put your defense in a tough position and you really give confidence to the other team,” he said. “They were able to run whatever they wanted to run, get the ball wherever they wanted to get the ball and they felt great. They felt comfortable (throughout the game).”

Recalling how the Pacers beat the Jazz handily last November by a score of 121-94 in Indianapolis, Gobert said Indiana is a strong team that plays well especially at home.

“They do a great job. They have a tough mindset. They really play as a team and they really play tough,” he said. “Nobody talks about them because they’re a small market team, but everybody in the league knows they are a very good team.”

Utah guard Donovan Mitchell said the Jazz defense suffered due to poor interaction on the floor, something they’ll definitely work on in the coming games.

“(It’s) just communication. A lot of it is just they felt comfortable the whole night. We tried to take that way the whole night, but that was the most pressing issue,” he said. “They felt comfortable the entire game. It’s all on us. We’ve got to get over screens, helping — the guards, the bigs. It’s really just all of us communicating and we’ll fix it.”

The Jazz are off on Thanksgiving Day, but are back in action again on Friday for game three of the road trip versus the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum. Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m. MST.