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SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell called it “a winnable game” that the Jazz let slip away. Bojan Bogdanovic was even more blunt.
“Bad loss. Bad loss for us,” Bogdanovic said.
After a strange game in Toronto where the Jazz were without eight rotation players, Utah got most of their guys back. One of them, though, wasn’t Rudy Gobert. That was the difference on Saturday in Indianapolis.
Indiana big man Domantas Sabonis scored 42 points on 18-of-22 shooting to lead the Pacers to a 125-113 victory over the Jazz.
Sabonis dominated the game and scored 24 points in the paint, and hit three 3-pointers while shooting nearly 82% from the field on 22 attempts. Those type of shooting numbers are hard to replicate in practice, let alone a game. So it wasn’t too hard to point to why the Jazz lost their second straight game Saturday.
“He was so efficient,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “A lot of times it was in the middle of the floor and we were trying to come and help. Obviously, we had difficulty handling him, particularly down low.”
Without Gobert, the Jazz threw different looks at Indiana. They sent weak-side help, tried to blitz the post, and even switched everything before scrambling back. Nothing worked.
Sabonis scored 18 points in the first quarter, setting a tone that would carry through the rest of the game. He helped the Pacers jump out to a 16-point lead in the first half and then scored 12 points in the fourth quarter to put things away.
Whenever the Jazz made a run — a 12-0 in the third quarter dropped the lead to 1 — it was Sabonis that responded.
He was phenomenal, obviously, but the Jazz left Indiana disappointed with how easy they made it for him. Utah missed assignments, missed box outs, had poor turnovers, etc. The Jazz played a sloppy game, and that’s what stung so much about Saturday.
“We did it to ourselves. That’s a winnable game for us. We shot ourselves in the foot a few different things,” Mitchell said. “This month is not easy for us. The schedule is gonna not be easy for us. We got to go out there and do it every night. Teams are coming at us.”
Mitchell finished with 36 points on 13-of-26 shooting and had a season-high nine assists. Bogdanovic had 21 points and Jordan Clarkson added 18 off the bench. They were the only three Utah players in double figures. Yet, for the most part, the offense was fine.
Utah shot 43% from 3-point range and finished with a 114.1 offensive rating. That’s not amazing, but good enough to win most of the time, at least when Gobert is in the game — or the Jazz show a little pride on the defensive end.
Utah continuously cut the lead to a single possession for the first half of the final quarter but just couldn’t get a stop to get over the hump. A 14-4 Indiana run put the game on ice.
“We gotta be more aggressive defensively,” Bogdanovic said. “This is not who we are. A lot of easy, easy buckets, especially for Sabonis, early on. Our effort’s gotta be better all across the board.”
Indiana shot 55% from the field and 48% from the 3-point line.
Hassan Whiteside, who was tasked with trying to stop Sabonis at the rim, said he’s physically fine after suffering a concussion, but he’s still “trying to get back into things.” The Jazz turned to 10-day contract center Norvel Pelle, who was on just his second day with the team, to help. That’s not a great combination against an All-Star big man who was having a career night.
“I know we’re missing Joe (Ingles) and Rudy, so you can easily put it on that, but this is a winnable game for us,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell pointed to how the Jazz were able to beat Denver without Gobert and Whiteside, even with Nikola Jokic having a big game. Against Denver, he said the Jazz locked in, scrambled and executed the defensive plan without their best centers. That wasn’t the case against the Pacers.
The Jazz will end what has been a strange road trip Monday in Detroit. Over the last week, the team has dealt with positive COVID-19 tests for the first time and had a number of players not even make the trip to Toronto due to injuries (and, if we’re being honest, worry about potential quarantines in Canada).
“Everything just happened kind of quickly,” Mitchell said of the odd week. “But we gotta be able to adapt and be ready.”