INDIANAPOLIS (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah Jazz have given up the third most points per game in the NBA so far this season, while the Indiana Pacers are the highest scoring team.
So Wednesday night’s showdown in Indianapolis went about as expected.
With the Jazz missing rim protector Walker Kessler, Indiana used its quick pace and 3-point shooters to draw Utah’s defense away from the basket, and the Pacers took full advantage of their size.
“I thought we started the game well, helping our teammate who was guarding the ball,” Jazz head coach Will Hardy said after Indiana made 13 3-pointers. “Then as the game went on, I thought the threat of the 3-point shot impacted our defense and we started creeping out closer and closer to our own man. We left teammates on an island and the Pacers started throwing it inside.”
For the Pacers, there already have been a lot of entertaining nights this season, and television celebrity David Letterman got to witness this one in person.
The NBA’s highest-scoring team has won three of four and topped 120 points in four straight games. Indiana had six players reach double figures again including Tyrese Haliburton, who had 16 points — all in the second half — and 13 assists. Jalen Smith posted his first double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
But the loss was only part of Utah’s story.
Before the game, the Jazz announced Kessler, a first-team all-rookie selection last season, will miss at least two weeks because of an injured left elbow. Doctors recommended Kessler avoid all contact until he is re-evaluated at the end of the rest period, team officials said.
To compensate, first-year coach Will Hardy went with a three-guard lineup, giving two — rookie Keyonte George and Ochai Agbaji — their first starts of the season.
While George had seven points and nine assists in 31 minutes on his 20th birthday, things didn’t work out as Hardy expected.
“Overall, I got my feet wet,” George said. “It just goes back to the staff having the trust in me to go out there and start the game off, try to get guys in rhythm. Just try to go out here, try to have the most fun possible. I mean, best birthday present you could ask for.”
Utah’s mistakes allowed Indiana to do pretty much anything it wanted offensively.
Turner dominated the middle with a 20-point first half, helping the Pacers erase an early 10-point deficit in taking a 67-60 halftime lead.
It was even worse over the final 13 minutes. Indiana scored the final six points of the third quarter to take a 101-98 lead and extended the margin to 120-106 with 5:49 to play. That was it for the Jazz.
The Jazz finish a four-game trip Friday at Memphis.