SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – In this 5 1/2 week stretch in which the Utah Jazz had won 16 out of 18 games, they had beaten just one team currently with a winning record.
But Monday night, the Jazz made a statement to all the doubters, dominating the 28-15 Indiana Pacers, winning their 30th game of the season by 30 points, 118-88.
Donovan Mitchell scored 25 points and Rudy Gobert had 20 points and 14 rebounds as the Jazz used a suffocating defense to improve to 30-13 on the season.
“The biggest question is can we continue to win against teams over .500 and against teams that are contenders,” Mitchell said. “I think this is a big step tonight.”
Bojan Bogdanovic added 16 points and Mike Conley had 14 off the bench on 6 of 8 shooting for the Jazz. Utah never trailed on its way to snapping a three-game losing streak to the Pacers.
“That felt real good,” said Conley, who played in his second game after missing the previous 14 with a hamstring injury. “I’ve been feeling really good for a while. I just miss being on the court with these guys and the coaching staff and players are making it easy on me. It’s easy baskeball with those guys.”
The Jazz, who have now won 12 of 13 games and 17 of 19, shot 54% from the field, scored 60 points in the paint and finished with a 53-30 advantage in rebounds.
Despite committing 21 turnovers, the Pacers were only able to score 16 points off of those turnovers, as the Jazz transition defense was on point. Utah committed just 11 fouls in the game, as Indiana attempted just 7 free throws.
“That was what we wanted to do,” Gobert said. :Don’t give them any free throws or anything at the rim, and don’t give them any rebounds. I think we did a great job.”
Georges Niang scored 15 points off the bench, while Tony Bradley had 8 points and 10 rebounds.
Utah attacked the rim throughout the first quarter and it paid off. The Jazz scored 20 points in the paint out of 29 total points in the quarter.
That allowed Utah to take control early. Joe Ingles drained a 3-pointer and then set up baskets for Gobert on back-to-back possessions to spark a 12-4 run that gave the Jazz an 18-10 lead midway through the first period.
Indiana closed to 31-27 on a hook shot from Domantas Sabonis early in the second, but Utah did not let the Pacers get any closer before halftime. Conley fed Gobert for a dunk and followed with back-to-back baskets to cap a 18-5 run that gave the Jazz a 49-32 lead midway through the quarter.
Utah maintained a double-digit cushion throughout the third and went up 78-55 on a jumper from Conley.
Royce O’Neale, who just signed a 4-year, $36-million contract on Sunday, had 5 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Asked who was buying dinner tonight, Mitchell immediately said, “Royce. Next question.”
“You have to buy dinner tomorrow then,” O’Neale replied.
“No, not no more,” Mitchell answered. “Uh uh.”
Utah moves up into a tie for second place in the Western Conference with Denver and the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Jazz next play at Golden State Wednesday night.