SALT LAKE CITY – – A strong team defense saved Utah Jazz after Donovan Mitchell injured his ankle.
NBA leaders Jazz rallied to beat the Indiana Pacers 119-111 on Friday after Mitchell’s left game with a sprained ankle in the second half. He scored 22 points on 7 of 15 shots before spraining his right ankle with 8:18 remaining in the third quarter.
Mitchell couldn’t put weight on his leg and his teammates helped him up from the floor to the locker room. The ankle x-rays were negative and he was due for an MRI on Friday evening.
Without Mitchell on the ground, the Jazz cracked down defensively to win their second straight game. Utah allowed Indiana to score on just 10 total possessions in the last 15 minutes.
“It’s always hard to see one of your guys fall. Donovan in particular is so important to our team, ”said point guard Mike Conley. “He’s the one who makes us leave. … I was proud of the way we reacted with Donovan’s downfall.
The Jazz erased a double-digit deficit and tied it at 89 heading into the fourth quarter on back-to-back baskets from Clarkson.
Utah passed Indiana for good with a 10-0 run, evidenced by back-to-back baskets from Bogdanovic, to take a 108-99 lead. Utah held Indiana scoreless for eight straight possessions in 4.5 minutes in the decisive flurry.
“Everything went better in the second half and it changed the momentum of the game,” said center Rudy Gobert. “It fueled our attack.
Gobert fueled the defense with 13 points, 23 rebounds and four blocks in the second half. Bojan Bogdanovic had 24 points to punctuate the Jazz offensive. Jordan Clarkson scored 18 points off the bench while Conley had 10 points and 10 assists.
Domantas Sabonis had 22 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists for the Pacers. Caris LeVert scored 24 points and Malcolm Brogdon added 16. Indiana led up to 17 points in the first half but lost for the second time in their last six games.
Utah’s perimeter offense came to life after halftime, which, combined with improved defense, made it difficult for the Pacers not to lose ground.
“They really made us pay for the arc there in the second half,” said Indiana coach Nate Bjorkgren. “We weren’t as energetic, in the ball screens and the transition defense. Their 3s were too free and easy, far too many in the second half.
The Pacers built their biggest first-half lead at 53-36 midway through the second quarter when Goga Bitadze capped a 9-0 push with a dunk.
Indiana shot 51% from the field in the first half and scored seven 3 points.
“We were just shooting,” Sabonis said. “Maybe the ball moved a bit more in the first half, but mostly we just took our shots.”
Utah reduced the deficit to 63-56 in the last minute before halftime on a Mitchell layup. But the Jazz then gave up two 3 points in the last 4.7 seconds of half-time. Brogdon drained one, then LeVert stole an incoming pass from Royce O’Neale and sank an undisputed corner 3 before the buzzer.
This streak perfectly summed up Utah’s defensive shortcomings in the first two quarters.
“We didn’t have the level of aggression required,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “There is just a level of urgency you need to have.”
Pacers: Doug McDermott missed his second straight game and Myles Turner missed his sixth in a row. Both players are recovering from a sprained left ankle. … Indiana led Utah 12-0 in counterattack points in the first quarter. … The Pacers have allowed just three points out of 10 turnovers.
Jazz: Derrick Favors sat down with pain in his left knee. … Utah scored seven 3-pointers in the third quarter after making six overall in the first half. … Gobert was in his fifth game this season with at least 20 rebounds.
D-WADE JOINS JAZZ
Three-time NBA champion and 13-time star Dwyane Wade bought a stake in Jazz, the team announced on Friday. Wade played in the league from 2003 to 2019, primarily for the Miami Heat, and served as an off-field mentor for Mitchell.
Pacers: Visit the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.
Jazz: Visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.