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Utah Jazz at Indiana Pacers Game Preview: Five things to watch

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Game #3: Jazz (1-1) @ Pacers (0-2)
Location: Bankers Life Field House • Indianapolis, IN
Time: 5:00 p.m. (MT)
TV: ROOT Sports • Radio: 1280 AM / 97.5 FM

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz (1-1) finish up their third game on this season beginning Eastern Conference road trip. In the first game they played the Detroit Pistons (3-0) in their home opener, and let the game slip away. In their second game they played the Philadelphia 76ers (0-2) in their home opener, and used the 'hit stick' on them. Tonight they play their second game in a back-to-back set, and it's also their third game in four nights. Who they got? Utah plays the Indiana Pacers (0-2), who do NOT have their season home opener against the Jazz, but are hungry none-the-less. First of all, they need to win a game, any game. Second, and more importantly, their historically important Basketball Hall of Fame center Mel Daniels passed away last night. So using Sports movie rules, they are really going to be fired up.

Of course, tonight is Gordon Hayward's "hometown" game, and he's going to be playing NBA star Paul George all night long. Both guys want to have a big game, and both are in shooting slumps. Gordon is shooting only 34.8 FG% so far this season, while Paul is hitting only 28.1 FG%. If you don't want to read the rest of this preview just know that both of them aren't likely to have three bad shooting nights in a row. The winner of their battle (at the 2, 3, or the 4) will probably determine who wins tonight's Jazz / Pacers game.

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1. Recent Play:

The Indiana Pacers are putting up some numbers, but they are losing numbers. They've lost to the Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies. The first "lotto team" they play is tonight's visiting Jazz. This is their "must win" game on the early schedule. So far this season they are averaging 101.0 ppg, while giving up 109.0 ppg. So they have a positive differential, yet two losses. One thing to keep track of is their defense -- it's not been great. They are giving up 109.3 points per 100.0 possessions. That's bad enough for 23rd in the NBA. That's not what Head Coach Frank Vogel wants from his club.

Furthermore, they've been healthy. So what's the deal? They get to the line, but send the other team to the line a lot as well. What's been killing them has been turn overs, they are in the bottom third in keeping control of the ball, and are in the bottom third in taking the ball away.

They've been excellent from three though, so that always keeps a team in any game.

As for our Utah Jazz, well, they have the best defense in the league, giving up only 81.5 ppg. They only give up 90.4 points per 100.0 possessions, also first. Because of their league slowest pace of play this is a force multiplier. The consequence is that the team doesn't score a lot, only 93.0 ppg (26th); however, it's not like they are bad on offense. They are 13th in Offensive rating (value / 100.0 possessions). In fact their net rating is pretty baller at +12.8 (103.2 ORTG - 90.4 DRTG). Of course, you have to take a lot of that with a grain of salt, having beating up on the Sixers without 5 or 6 of their top 10 players.

So Indy has played tougher comp and are hungry. One of their historically important players just died last night. Utah is playing their 3rd game in four nights. It could be emotionally in favor of Indy, despite the Jazz' amazing defensive play of late.

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2. History:

The Jazz don't own the Pacers. Indy is up in the all-time head-to-head 41-39. It's only a two game difference, but Utah is only 13-27 in Indiana. It's not easy. Last season the Jazz dropped BOTH games to Indy, and frankly, they weren't that close. Oh, and Paul George didn't play in those games.

That said, well, let's look at G-Time against Indy. The Brownsburg, Indiana native has played the Pacers 9 times in his career. He averaged 26.3 mpg against them, and has amassed a 14.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg, and 3.3 apg averages. He has been more active since becoming a full-time starter, and shoots .456 .259 .925 against them.

In games just in Indiana his scoring has gone up almost every season:

  • Rookie year - 2 points
  • Sophomore year - 11 points
  • 3rd year - 8 points
  • 4th year - 21 points
  • 5th year - 30 points

Of course, he's is 1-4 against the Pacers in Indy. The only time he's tasted victory there was in his rookie year, where he finished with just two points.

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3. Strategy:

Frank Vogel is going to need to do something against Quin Snyder's defense. He's seen what Philly did, and what Detroit did. One of those teams beat the Jazz. The other didn't. The team that stuck with two conventional bigs got decimated. So, duh, we're going to see Paul George at the four tonight more than we'd like -- even if they start off big. That means no Tibor Pleiss tonight for the Jazz fans. It probably means more Trevor Booker and Trey Lyles though. (Though, probably just more Booker). The main issue here is that Utah's defense is based around having two rim protectors on the floor at the same time. If they can't do that, then it allows the other team to score in the paint after moving our solitary rim protector out of the paint. (Detroit got a lot of nice easy looks on 2nd chance points.)

What can Quin do? Well, he could just not buckle and go big. It's where the obvious advantage is. Also, well, you kinda "hafta" go big in order to protect the team because Raul Neto and Trey Burke aren't going to stop George Hill or Monta Ellis (or Rodney Stuckey) on the pick and roll without any help.

So we'll see what happens tonight.

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4. Players:

Pacers Players:

2015 2016 GM 03 UTA at IND - Pacers Player Stats

George Hill, Monta Ellis, Paul George, and C.J. Miles have been putting up some numbers. Damn. Their bigs, on the other hand . . .

Jazz Players:

2015 2016 GM 03 UTA at IND - Jazz Player Stats

So Derrick Favors is our MVP this year? I'm cool with that.

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5. X-Factors:

Beyond the A_B_C_D_E_F_G_H_I_J_K_L_M_N_O_P_Q_R_S_T_U_V_W Factor of Hayward vs. George, the X-Factors tonight will come in the back court. If Trey Burke can be coaxed into a shooting game against Stuckey or Hill it could be bad. If he can retain his control and help move the ball around it could be great. I don't know if Neto is ready for this Jelly, but if it is, that would really help out. Indy's guards just really do scare me.

If one of our starters is having trouble it would be nice to see Alec Burks or Joe Ingles take control for stretches. They both can, and their opponents tonight are all somewhat defensively sound. Should be a good game.

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Prediction:

A tough game, but if the Jazz can maintain their defensive death grip, I see a close win.