Jazz Fall To Pacers, Did New Starting Lineup Help?

Nov 8, 2023, 8:50 PM | Updated: Nov 9, 2023, 11:20 am

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz fell to the Indiana Pacers 134-118, extending their losing streak to four games, despite opening the game with a new starting lineup.

Jordan Clarkson scored 33 points to lead the Jazz while Aaron Nesmith scored 24 for Indiana.

The Jazz are now 2-7 on the season.

Who Did New Jazz Starting Lineup Help?

Prior to the game, the Jazz made two significant announcements.

First, Walker Kessler would miss at least two weeks with an elbow sprain, and would be replaced by Ochai Agbaji.

And two, Keyonte George was replacing Talen Horton-Tucker in the team’s starting lineup.

Let’s look at who benefited, and who was hurt after Wednesday’s major shakeup.

Helped: Keyonte George

The clear winner of the change was the rookie George who was named the starter on his 20th birthday and did more than enough to reward Will Hardy for making the switch.

George recorded seven points, dished out nine assists, and turned the ball over only once despite shooting just 3-8 from the floor.

The Jazz turned the ball over 21 times as a team, but George was not the team’s primary offender.

“He’s still learning how to pick his spots when to shoot,” Hardy said after the game. “I think he turned down probably five or six shots off the bounce that we would like to see him take but I think overall his poise and communication tonight was fantastic.”

Hurt: Talen Horton-Tucker

To Horton-Tucker’s credit he was the only player on the Jazz to finish the night with a positive plus-minus while scoring six points, handing out five assists, and grabbing four rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.

However, he still had four turnovers and shot just 3-8 from the floor.

Simply put, he hasn’t outplayed George this season, and thus, can’t lay claim to the starting job.

Helped: Jordan Clarkson

Perhaps the biggest winner was Clarkson who had his best scoring game of the season pouring in 33 points on 12-26 shooting as he seemed more comfortable knowing where his shots would come from.

It wasn’t a perfect night from Clarkson who still had six turnovers, far too many for a guard with his talent, but it was a step in the right direction for the veteran’s confidence.

Hurt: Walker Kessler

The Jazz starting lineup looked significantly better with more spacing, likely due to having Kessler off the floor.

The Jazz spacing issue isn’t Kessler’s alone as he and John Collins have struggled when sharing the floor, owning the team’s third-worst plus-minus as a two-man unit.

In fact, Kessler’s name appears in five of the Jazz’s six worst plus-minus pairings, highlighting how difficult his season has been, and the struggles of the team’s starting lineup.

It’s possible Kessler would have faired better with George on the floor as the Jazz’s starting point guard, but we won’t know for at least two weeks as he rests his elbow injury.

If the team’s offense continues to look improved without Kessler in the starting rotation, coach Hardy may have a difficult decision to make when he gets healthy.

Helped: The Jazz Starting Lineup

Let’s be clear, George didn’t have a home run stat line, but it was clear how much better the Jazz starters looked with the rookie running the show in the first quarter.

No Jazz starter had a negative plus-minus when combining the first and third quarter totals, which meant the Jazz weren’t out of the game when the second unit took the floor.

Hurt: Kelly Olynyk

Kelly Olynyk had arguably his worst game of the season scoring four points and grabbing five rebounds in 21 minutes on the floor.

The Canadian big man was a team-worst -19 against Indiana as the Pacers gladly sprinted past the Jazz’s undersized second unit that badly missed another big presence in the paint.

Olynyk and Lauri Markkanen had been the Jazz’s best two-man pairing so far this season with a positive 3.5 plus-minus, but without Kessler in uniform, the two veterans rarely shared the floor.

Helped: Simone Fontecchio

With Kessler out for at least two weeks, Simone Fontecchio found himself in the Jazz rotation and played well in his season-high 19 minutes.

The Italian forward scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds while shooting 4-8 from the floor and showing real hustle on the defensive end.

Hurt: The Defense

Despite the change, the Jazz defense was still putrid against the Pacers who scored 134 points, the most by any opponent this season.

The Jazz held Indiana below 30 points just once in four quarters and posted a dreadful 126.4 defensive rating, even worse than their season average.

“The Pacers ended up scoring 74 points in the paint,” Hardy said after the game. “The commitment to team defense has to improve.”

Nightly Awards:

The ‘This Is Why Coaches Age So Quickly’ Award: 

Goes to Talen Horton-Tucker who with 30 seconds left in the third quarter and the Jazz leading by one committed turnovers on two consecutive plays allowing the Pacers to take a 101-98 lead into the fourth.

Horton-Tucker’s most egregious mistake came with 12 seconds left to play in the third and the Jazz in an obvious one-shot situation. Instead of slowing the ball down, and finding All-Star teammate Lauri Markkanen, Horton-Tucker needlessly attacked the rim with eight seconds left to play only to dribble the ball off his knee out of bounds, giving Indiana plenty of time to execute a play.

Andrew Nemhard hit an easy 11-foot jumper with just under two seconds left in the quarter, breaking the Jazz’s back heading into the fourth.

The ‘Danny Ainge Nailed That Draft Pick’ Award: 

Goes to Aaron Nesmith who Ainge and the Boston Celtics selected with the 14th pick of the 2020 NBA Draft.

Nesmith had a quiet two seasons with the Celtics before Brad Stevens traded the wing to Indiana after Ainge stepped down in Boston.

The Vanderbilt product was averaging just over 11 points and four rebounds while shooting a staggering 45 percent from three on 4.4 attempts per game this season before torching the Jazz for 24 points on 9-13 shooting.

Jazz Next Broadcast

The Jazz will face the Grizzlies on Friday at 6 pm MST in Memphis. The game will be televised on KJZZ, streamed on Jazz+, and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone.

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Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Jazz Fall To Pacers, Did New Starting Lineup Help?