Jazz (43-27) at Indiana Pacers (35-34)
Today, 5 p.m.
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
TV: ROOT Sports
After a pair of rough road losses, the Utah Jazz are back on the floor in Indiana Monday to face off with the Pacers (35-34) after a 116-91 setback against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.
The Pacers are led by four-time all-star small forward Paul George who is having the best overall shooting season of his young career. He is averaging 22.4 points with a career-best effective field percentage of 52 percent while leading the league in free-throw shooting at 91.9 percent. He also contributes 6.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals in 35.3 minutes a night.
He will be matched up with the player taken one spot ahead of him in the 2010 draft, Gordon Hayward. Like George, Hayward is a versatile wing player who is carrying the load offensively as he is putting up a career-high 21.8 points a night with an effective field-goal percentage of 52.7.
This will be the 10th meeting between the two all-stars with Hayward and the Jazz holding the 5-4 edge. While Hayward has the one-game lead in the win department, George has been the more productive player averaging 20.6 points on 47.8 percent shooting compared with 14.3 points on 42.1 percent shooting from Hayward, according to Basketball-reference.com.
While George and Hayward have a similar skill set, they do their damage offensively in different ways. George used to rely on his athletic ability to get to the paint and finish at the rim, but he now has turned into more of an outside shooter who will take the ball to the basket sparingly. Much of that change came after a gruesome leg injury that cost him nearly all of the 2014-15 season. George has made the transition well as he hits on 47 percent of his shots from 16 feet to the 3-point line and 38.7 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
As for Hayward, he is attacking the rim more than he has in four years, and for good reason. He is shooting a career-best 69.8 percent from 0 to 3 feet while taking 22.8 percent of his shots from the range, according to Basketball-reference.com. He isn't just a slasher, however. He also spends plenty of time shooting from the outside where he connected on 39.6 percent of his shots from distance.
For Hayward and the Jazz to come out ahead in tonight's game, it is key to contest George's shots without fouling. George is deadly from the free-throw having missed just 24 of 296 attempts all season. It is also important to put make him work defensively so that he doesn't have the legs to consistently knock down the outside shot.