When a franchise is having something of a record breaking start to the season, you can expect some negative streaks to be broken and stopped. One of them has been the lack of success the Indiana Pacers have endured over the years upon visiting Salt Lake City, beating the Utah Jazz for the first time since 1995 on the road, thanks to some excellent fourth quarter defense and some clutch scoring from non other than Paul George.
There’s no doubt the Utah Jazz, now 4-16, are a very different team now that Trey Burke is playing. The point guard finished with 13 points and 9 assists on a rough shooting night for the Jazz (41.3% from the field), which is pretty much what everyone go through when they face the Indiana Pacers. The Jazz were leading by one point after the first half, but scored 19 points in the third quarter and then again in the fourth, finding it almost impossible to score through half court offense against the re-focused Pacers.
We struggled but we stuck with what we do best. We made those guys take tough shots and, over time, those shots start to get a little short or a little long. Our defense played a huge part in us getting this win. We made the better plays down the stretch. We got what we wanted, getting open shots because we executed in the fourth quarter.
It came down to a couple of things the Jazz simply can’t compete with right now, despite having Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Roy Hibbert might be the toughest defensive presence to get around in the league, and he kept the Jazz on only 13-of-28 from the paint, while Indiana, once again with their entire starting five in double figures, scored 54 points. There was also the bench – the Pacers went on 14-4 run when Richard Jefferson replaced Alec Burks, then a 7-0 Pacer run came when Andris Biedrins entered in the third. Luis Scola, on the other hand, had an impressive 14 points game, which is yet another big difference from this Pacers team to the one from last season.
It’s hard to say how the Pacers will look when Danny Granger returns. The initial plan was to have him in the lineup, possibly move Paul George to shooting guard and make Lance Stephenson a sixth man. It doesn’t seem like anyone except for Granger is too upset about how things have turned out, but it’s quite clear that when he returns it won’t be for a lineup role, even though he’s getting paid like a superstar.
Wins over the Utah Jazz won’t define the season for the Pacers, but considering how “hot” the Jazz have been recently, even a win in the EnergySolutions Arena can’t be disregarded and looked upon as something easy. The Indiana Pacers at 17-2 might be heading towards rough patches before this season is over, but they continue to prove that this group has what it takes to go a bit further than how things ended for them last season.