‘We just can see the level that we can attain against a good team’: Utah Jazz roll over Indiana Pacers by 30
Over the Utah Jazz’s last 18 games entering Monday, 15 of their 16 wins in that span had come against teams with records below .500. They added another impressive victory against the Pacers.
SALT LAKE CITY — Over the Utah Jazz’s last 18 games entering Monday night, 15 of their 16 wins in that span had come against teams with records below .500, with the lone exception being a victory three weeks ago versus the LA Clippers.
Throughout the run, Jazz head coach Quin Snyder and players repeatedly said they had been improving as a team since a stretch in late November and early December when they lost six of eight games and were blown out by good teams in a couple of them, but was that really the case, or did they just feast upon an easy schedule?
Monday’s contest against the Indiana Pacers, who beat Utah by 19 in late November, finally provided Utah with a chance to measure itself against a good team, as the Pacers came in with a 28-15 record and a five-game win streak.
The Jazz passed the test with flying colors, as they seized control early and eventually won 118-88. The 30-point margin came in Utah’s 30th win of the season and avenged the loss two months ago.
“I feel like the team that we are today compared to the last time we played them, we’re a different team. It was a great win,” said Jazz big man Tony Bradley, who played arguably his best game of the season, finishing with eight points, 10 rebounds, a steal and a block in 17 minutes.
Perhaps a fair caveat for the Pacers regarding Monday’s game was that they played Sunday night on the road against the Denver Nuggets (an Indiana win) and two games in two nights in the cities with the highest elevation in the NBA can be challenging, but Utah came out strong on both ends of the floor and didn’t look back.
Facing a Pacers team that came in seventh in the league in points given up per game (the Jazz were eighth), Utah’s offense was rolling early just as it has most of the last month. At the halfway point of the first quarter, the Jazz already had 18 points on 8 of 11 shooting with six assists and led by eight.
By the midway point of the second quarter, the Jazz lead had ballooned to 17 points and they led by 12 at halftime on the strength of shooting 56% from the field compared to just 43% for the Pacers.
“We just tried to move the ball,” said Utah big man Rudy Gobert. “We knew that they were going to collapse the paint, especially on the pick-and-roll. Every time I rolled to the basket, they were going to take away the easy dunk, so just had to move the ball. Guys did a great job doing that.”
“We just tried to move the ball. We knew that they were going to collapse the paint, especially on the pick-and-roll. Every time I rolled to the basket, they were going to take away the easy dunk, so just had to move the ball. Guys did a great job doing that.” — Jazz center Rudy Gobert
Unlike over the past month when Utah had built big leads against teams such as the New York Knicks or Sacramento Kings, Monday’s game didn’t necessarily feel out of reach at intermission, but the Jazz made sure it got that way in the third quarter.
Utah scored the first seven points out of halftime to stretch the lead to 19, and the advantage grew to 23 inside of three minutes to go in the frame. By the end of the quarter, Indiana had scored just 63 points.
“I thought for the most part, when you’re consistent defensively, you give yourself a chance for good things to happen,” said Snyder. “For the most part defensively as a group, we were good. We did a good job on the boards, which was really important.”
At that point the game was in hand, but the Jazz only built the lead, with Mitchell scoring 12 of his points in the final 12 minutes, and Georges Niang made a pair of free throws with 28 seconds left to stretch the lead to 30 points.
“We just can see the level that we can attain against a good team,” Gobert said. “Coming off a back-to-back is true, but they’re still a very good team. I think they’re going to be one the best teams in the East this year. It’s great to see that we’re able to keep playing for four quarters and it’s encouraging. We’ve got to keep that level of focus the same way and keep getting better.”