Shorthanded Jazz still force to be reckoned with vs. Pacers

NBA Basketball

While the Utah Jazz were without three key players on Wednesday night, the guys they did have managed the load just fine.

Without Royce O’Neale (rest), Joe Ingles (sore knee) and Jordan Clarkson (sprained ankle), players like Bojan Bogdanovic and fill-in starter Georges Niang needed to step up — and did — in order to get past a scrappy Oklahoma City Thunder team that jumped out to a 17-point lead.

It’s uncertain how many players will be available for Friday’s early afternoon matchup against the Indiana Pacers in Salt Lake City, but Wednesday’s experience showed the Jazz can survive on limited resources in a pinch. Only seven players scored, but six of the hit double digits and three contributed double-doubles in the 106-96 win.

Bogdanovic led the way for the NBA-leading Jazz with 23 points after recording a season-high 33 points in the previous outing.

“We had guys out on this back-to-back, so we’re ran way more sets of fences for me so I was able to get to the basket and draw the fouls,” Bogdanovic said after going 10-for-10 from the free throw line. “I knew I had to be more aggressive these last two games.”

Niang also excelled in his expanded role, scoring 18 points with 10 rebounds and three assists.

“He didn’t get outside of himself. That’s what he’s been doing,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of Niang. “He just got more opportunity, more minutes, and sometimes when that happens, guys try to do more, but in George’s case, what he did was plenty. I thought he really let the game come to him.”

Rudy Gobert added 13 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks, with Mike Conley notching the other double-double of 15 points and 14 assists.

They needed all the help they could get in light of second-year Thunder standout Lu Dort exploding for a career-high 42 points and getting OKC off to such a great start.

“They blitzed us, so our backs were up against the wall,” Niang said. “We had to respond, and we have a great group of guys that are resilient, so we got back to playing Jazz basketball.”

The Pacers come into this game having won four of five, including a 132-124 victory at Houston on Wednesday. They fell to Utah earlier in the season 103-95 at home.

Like the Jazz’s last game, the Pacers had big performances from multiple guys. Caris LeVert scored 27 points, Domantas Sabonis contributed 22 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Malcolm Brogdon was on triple-double alert status with 23 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists.

“It’s just chemistry. It’s guys learning how to play with each other and learning our strengths and weaknesses,” said Brogdon, whose team is making a push toward the end of the regular season. “When you add a huge playmaker and scorer and a great player like Caris LeVert, it’s going to take some time to get used to his style of play and for him to get used to how we play.”

The Pacers led the entire way.

“I just thought that we were playing very well and together,” Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren said. “I thought we had that initial force right out of the gate. And there were some guys that really stepped up off the bench, too.”

–Field Level Media

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