Career-Highs Lead Pacers Over Gobert-less Jazz

Jan 8, 2022, 8:12 PM | Updated: 8:14 pm
Utah Jazz center Hassan Whiteside defends Indiana Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis (Photo by Justin ...
Utah Jazz center Hassan Whiteside defends Indiana Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz fell to the Indiana Pacers 125-113 in a battle of two shorthanded teams.

The Jazz were without Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles who are in the NBA’s health and safety protocols while Indiana was playing without guards Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. McConnell.

Donovan Mitchell scored 36 points for the Jazz but was outshone by Domantas Sabonis who scored a career-high 42 points on 18-22 shooting.

Jazz Defense Didn’t Work Without Gobert

The Jazz defensive scheme is specifically built to take advantage of the enormous strengths of Rudy Gobert, but because of that, when he isn’t on the floor, other teams really take advantage.

In their matchup earlier this week against the Denver Nuggets the Jazz earned a victory but gave up a massive 26 points, 21 rebound, and 11 assist performance to MVP Nikola Jokic.

Then, against the Pacers, Sabonis got rolling early on offense knocking down his first 10 field goal attempts of the game, scoring 24 points in the first half, and finishing with a career-high 42 points.

The Jazz defense is designed to funnel players to the middle of the floor and into Gobert whose incredible length makes it extremely difficult to score in the paint.

If you look at Sabonis’s shot chart below, you can see that the Jazz did a good job keeping him in the middle of the floor, but a bad job impeding his performance in any way.

While the Jazz brought in Hassan Whiteside to mirror Gobert’s length when he’s off the floor, his lack of mobility and up and down effort don’t allow him to have the same impact as the three-time defensive player of the year.

When Whiteside was off the floor Quin Snyder went to freshly signed Norvel Pelle and Rudy Gay, neither of whom provided much resistance either.

“Around the basket he was so efficient,” Snyder said of the Pacers star. “A lot of times it was in the middle of the floor and we were trying to come and help and obviously had difficulty handling him particularly down low.”

Late in the game when the Jazz needed to get stops, the Pacers used Sabonis and Lance Stephenson in the pick and roll and got repeatedly easy looks at the rim.

Stephenson finished with 16 points and a career-high 14 assists in just 28 minutes.

It’s difficult to argue with the Jazz defensive approach when Gobert is on the floor as he’s the best defensive player in the world and including him in the action gives the team a top ten defensive ranking.

When he’s off the court, however, the team’s inability to generate stops is egregious and will once again be a major reason they fall short of a deep playoff run if they fail to address the issue.

Snyder Addresses Mitchell Rumor

On a podcast by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, he and reporter Tim MacMahon discussed Mitchell and the belief in some NBA front offices that the guard may prefer to play in a larger market than Salt Lake City.

“There is I’m going to say at least speculation around a league that market size might matter to him,” MacMahon said.

Windhorst then pointed to the first returns on All-Star voting that had Mitchell ranked seventh among Western Conference guards, even behind Klay Thompson who has yet to suit up this season.

MacMahon then explained the great lengths the Jazz have gone to keep their superstar guard happy.

“The Jazz do everything they possibly can to make Donovan Mitchell happy,” MacMahon said. “From bringing in his mentor Dwayne Wade as part of the ownership group to every move they make from their front office on down to the 15th man on the roster, travel plans, whatever. Donovan Mitchell is front of mind.”

Snyder was asked about MacMahon’s report before the game and offered this answer.

“I haven’t seen the article,” Snyder said. “I think all of us feel good about being a part of this organization, it’s one of the best organizations in the league from ownership to management to our players. So I know for myself as a coach, I feel lucky to be a part of the Jazz.”

The Jazz will wrap up their five-game road trip on Monday in Detroit.

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