The Pacers come up short on Super Bowl Sunday against the Jazz.
The Pacers stayed within striking distance much of the second half, but at closing time, the Jazz made the necessary winning plays to put away the win, their fourth in a row and 15th of the last 16 games.
The Jazz played without point guard Mike Conley, which was just the seventh missed game among the top nine players in Jazz rotation. In essence, the Jazz are using the same formula as the Pacers but being rewarded for their continuity with good health among their key players and man can they play.
The Jazz are a bear to deal with on both ends of the floor where they rank fourth in both offense and defense. So when the Pacers struggled to score, the Jazz made them pay at the other end despite an overall solid defensive game from the good guys.
After both teams went to the half with the score tied, Jazz opened the second half on an 11-6 run, more distressing was how, with the scores coming in the paint within six feet of the rim at worst as Donovan Mitchell went from scorer to facilitator. The Pacers struggled to get any sustained offensive flow and went to the fourth quarter down 75-68.
The lead swelled to ten points early in the fourth quarter as Jordan Clarkson remained a problem on the offensive end for the Jazz. But the Pacers bench mob kept grinding while the Jazz missed some open threes and the deficit was down to 2 as the starters returned to the floor to finish. T.J. McConnell finished the signature possession of the stretch after he and Justin Holiday both snuck in to keep the possession alive with offensive rebounds after missed shots.
Four straight points by Sabonis tied it up before ol’ friend Bojan Bogdanovic scored through Doug McDermott for a tough and one. That was start of the end.
A rough offensive game for both Sabonis and Brogdon left the Pacers empty on otherwise solid possessions throughout the game. Combined, the top scoring duo for the Pacers scored 35 points on 38 sots. Each missed shots, along with Myles Turner in a stretch of three empty possession that the Jazz were able to cash in at the other end. Suddenly, the Pacers went from trailing by one to down eight against a team closing better than any other in the league.
The Pacers have now dropped three games in a row for the first time this season and play their next three on the road starting in Brooklyn on Wednesday where they will reportedly catch the Nets without Kevin Durant.
Early on, the Pacers attacked Rudy Gobert via Sabonis, but Domas had more success shooting threes over Gobert. Sabonis struggled to crack the code against Gobert around the rim and if certainly didn’t help his teammate, Myles Turner’s case for defensive player of the year. Gobert finished with three blocks, 16 rebounds and several altered shots around the rim.
Goga Bitadze gave some quality second quarter minutes, guarding Gobert and still helping disrupt drives to the rim. During the solid 7 minute run, Bitadze had 4 point, 2 rebound with 2 blocks and steal which doesn’t account for altering a couple of other takes to the rim by the Jazz. He certainly left the game better than he found it when he checked out for the remainder of the half (pacers down 2).
In the end, Donovan Mitchell was the best player on the floor and kept the Jazz rolling throughout the game with 27 points, 11 assists and 9 rebounds. Jordan Clarkson continued his stellar sixth man play with 17 points off the bench.