Sarah Todd covers the NBA and Utah Jazz for the Deseret News.
The Utah Jazz beat the Indiana Pacers, 103-95, on Sunday, improving their NBA-leading record to 19-5 on the season.
The Jazz haven’t really had to play many games like this so far this season where the game is back and forth and tight all the way down to the end. It’s really good for them to have a game where they have to fight.
On the final game of their current road trip, the Jazz clearly were feeling the weight of the trip and didn’t have their legs under them and they needed to rely on their defense to win the game. Everyone really stepped up to that challenge, from Rudy Gobert’s amazing defense in the paint to the short stint that Miye Oni played. There were some really impressive defensive performances across the board.
With Mike Conley not playing, it was going to be necessary for Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles to step up their playmaking and creation and they answered that call, especially Mitchell whose passing was incredible.
In a game in which the Jazz really had to grind it out, Mitchell and Gobert showed their best attributes. Mitchell finished nearly with a triple-double with 27 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds. Gobert notched 16 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks. They really seemed like the leaders of the team throughout the game.
It feels like this win was hugely important for the Jazz. It’s certainly not the most impressive and the Pacers aren’t the toughest opponent they’ve faced, but the type of game that it was feels like it will end up being an instrumental game to point to in the Jazz’s growth of the season.
There were a ton of individual moments throughout the game that were really great for the Jazz and every player really contributed something, but it all felt a little more cohesive than just a single person doing a single thing.
The Jazz shot just 13-of-43 (31%) from 3-point range on Sunday and just 40.9% on overall field goals. It’s strange because even a lot of the flaws the Jazz had against the Pacers were outweighed by the fact that they overcame them.
There’s been a lot of chatter about Myles Turner this season as a defensive player of the year candidate as he’s been leading the league in blocks and really playing well, but he did not acquit himself well on Sunday and was thoroughly outplayed by Gobert.
The Pacers’ best player, Domantas Sabonis, didn’t play a bad game — it was kind of a grind it out night for both teams and he led the Pacers with 20 points. But he was playing with five fouls in the fourth quarter and eventually fouled out. Playing in that kind of foul trouble down the stretch of a close game doesn’t allow for the kind of physicality that is needed.
The Jazz shot 14-of-21 from the free-throw line but all seven misses came from Gobert who was 2-of-9 from the charity stripe, including one air ball. The inconsistency with Gobert’s free-throw shooting is not just in his makes and misses and good days and bad days. There seems to be little consistency in his form.