by Brandon Quinones
The Indiana Pacers are set to come into town on Friday to take on the Utah Jazz at 1 PM Mountain Time. The Jazz are coming off a back-to-back stretch in which they lost to the Wizards for their first home loss of 2021, but then recovered the next day with a ten-point win over the rebuilding Thunder. With Friday’s game also being the first game of yet another back-to-back stretch, it will be interesting to see if the Jazz decide to rest anybody. Mike Conley rested on Monday as part of his injury management. As of now, Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles remain day-to-day on the injury report, while Udoka Azubuike remains out. For the Pacers, they are 5-5 in their last ten games and are coming fresh off a 132-124 win against the Rockets. They will look to maintain the streak against the Jazz. As of now, Myles Turner and Doug McDermott missed their last game and remain unlikely to play in tomorrow’s matchup.
Here are three keys to the game that can lead to a Jazz win:
1) Crashing the glass
One area where the Jazz can look to set the tone against the Pacers is in the rebounding department. The Jazz remain one of the best rebounding teams in the league. This is thanks in part to one of the NBA’s leading rebounders in Rudy Gobert. They remain first in the league in that department at 48.3 per game. This could be a deciding factor in this matchup seeing as how the Pacers are the fourth worst rebounding team in the league at 42.2 per game.
If the Jazz close out defensive possessions with a rebound, they will limit scoring opportunities for the Pacers while giving themselves more opportunities. Offensive rebounding should be a point of emphasis for multiple reasons. The Pacers are the worst team in the league at allowing points off second chances. When paired with the fact that the Jazz are third in the league in offensive rebounds per game, that can lead to second chance opportunities for the Jazz where they can exploit that weakness in the Pacers.
Furthermore, the Pacers are the second worst team in the league in allowing points in the paint. The Gobert-led Jazz should have excellent looks in the paint coming off of offensive rebounds. The Pacers have two excellent big men in Turner and Sabonis, both standing at 6’11”. They combine for 18 rebounds-per-game respectively, yet Indiana still ranks in the bottom five as a team in that department. If the Jazz can continue to be a strong rebounding team, they will leave little room for error on the Pacers’ side.
2) Strong Transition Defense
Another area of focus for the Jazz should be transition defense against the Pacers. Indiana ranks sixth in pace. They like to find easy looks in transition. Brogdon, Levert, Mcconnell, and even Sabonis are playmakers who like to get out on the finish at the rim or make passes to others that are open on the fast break. The Pacers rank first in the league in the percentage of their points that come from fast breaks at 14.1 percent.
It will be important for guys to get back quickly in transition to prevent easy scores on the other end A big reason why the Pacers tend to be so successful in transition starts with the fact that they are also fourth in the league in steals per game and tied for first in blocks per game. It will be important for the Jazz to take care of the basketball as much as possible. If the Jazz can grab offensive boards as mentioned in the first key to success, that will prevent the Pacers from capitalizing on fast break opportunities.
3) Getting to the charity stripe
The Jazz’s have to get to the foul line. Getting as many free throw looks as possible should be part of the game plan for the Jazz. They shoot well from the line and it also forces the other team into foul trouble. The Jazz should work to exploit this weakness on the Pacers. They rank in the bottom 10 in the league at committing fouls. As a team, the Jazz should collectively make it an effort to put pressure on Pacers defenders to force them into playing solid defense or committing fouls. Free throws are the highest percentage shots in the game for most players.
If the Jazz can, rebound, defend and get plenty of looks at the line, they will have an excellent chance to win this game.
Featured image courtesy Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports