Moral victories are different from actual wins, but when the latter does not materialize, the former is a nice consolation prize. The Utah Jazz lost to the formidable Indiana Pacers 94-91 in a hard-fought battle. While the outcome wasn’t the desired goal, the young Utah squad would not go away and as a result, the game went to the buzzer.
Playing the second half of a back-to-back, Indiana did not play particularly well. That said, they did enough down the stretch to escape with the victory. The frontcourt of David West and All-Star Paul George led the way for the Pacers. West was tough inside, hitting 11-of-17 shots en route to a 25-point, six-rebound effort. George did not shoot well but managed to tally 22 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Utah lost its second consecutive game on its current six-game road trip. It will try to get back on track Monday versus the Milwaukee Bucks.
Defensive display: While the Indiana offense struggled at times, as has been the case all season, the Pacers knew when to step it up defensively. There were several times when Indiana seemingly turned up the pressure and forced either poor shots or caused the Jazz to cough up the ball. The combination of West, George, Lance Stephenson and back-up center Ian Mahimni created issues for Utah. The Pacers’ defense resulted in 10 steals and eight blocked shots.
This was even more impressive when imposing center Roy Hibbert’s foul issues are taken into consideration. The All-Star and leading candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year Award was saddled all evening, as his five fouls limited him to just 19 minutes. Hibbert was just one of nine from the floor for two points and four rebounds.
Utah’s future: Going back to the moral victories, the Jazz saw some nice things from their young talent. In his return to his native Indiana, Gordon Hayward had 21 points, and it was his shooting down the stretch that set Utah up for a potential game-tying trey.
Derrick Favors severely outplayed Hibbert with 17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. He looked confident and aggressive. Trey Burke had a steady, heady game. He shot 5-of-9, including a pair of 3-pointers. He finished with 16 points, five assists and four rebounds.
Off the bench, Utah had nice production from Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. Kanter had 12 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes — nearly as many minutes as he recorded the previous two outings. Burks’ shot was off, but he had one of his best all-around games with nine rebounds and seven assists.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.