I think he’s emerged. He’s got a voice. He’s got a voice in the huddle, a voice on the court. —Jazz coach Quin Snyder
SALT LAKE CITY — Joe Ingles spent much of Saturday night getting under the skin of Oklahoma City players.
The chatty Aussie was bumped by OKC big Steven Adams, resulting in a technical foul for the Big Kiwi. He was in the vicinity later when Carmelo Anthony was T’d up, and he yapped at Thunder guard Terrance Ferguson all the way up the court after sinking a 3-pointer.
While it would be a stretch to give Ingles’ crafty gamesmanship all the credit for the Utah Jazz’s 96-87 win over Oklahoma City at Vivint Arena, there were some parallels between his trash-talking display and the final outcome.
The Jazz played with more confidence.
The Jazz were more aggressive.
The Jazz were more annoying.
And on this night, the Jazz definitely had more fun.
Whatever you said, Ingles, it seemed to work.
"I don't know what you're talking about,” Ingles said, smirking, when asked if his talking game was better than usual. “No comment."
Regardless of what he said, Ingles’ shot was as effective as what came out of his mouth.
The Jazz’s starting small forward led the team with 19 points, including five 3-pointers.
“He plays with passion,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “He’s got to be smart and use his aggressiveness in a timely and intelligent fashion. I think he’s emerged. He’s got a voice. He’s got a voice in the huddle, a voice on the court.”
This game was just as much about how the Jazz defense silenced the collective voice of the Thunder offense.
OKC only scored 14 points in the first quarter and went to the locker room with just 34 points on the scoreboard.
Utah’s pressure, length, determination and peskiness — impressively shown on the second night of a back-to-back after losing to Minnesota on Friday — helped the Jazz stymie the Thunder and take a 20-point lead in the third quarter.
“That’s who we are. That’s who we want to be,” Snyder said. “We want to be a defensive-minded club and have our play reflect that every night out.”
While the Thunder’s two offseason All-Star additions — Anthony and Paul George — both had big games, Russell Westbrook was remarkably silent. The reigning MVP had more missed shots (nine) and turnovers (seven) than he did points (six).
Anthony (26 points on 12-of-26 shooting) and George (22 points, six turnovers) were the only Thunder players to score more than nine.
“When you have a new team coming together, it’s different for everybody,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “Paul, the way he scored in Indiana, is going to be different here. Same with Carmelo. They are working hard at it. Certainly, it is a work in progress.”
Snyder, whose team improved to 2-1 in a tough three-games-in-four-nights start, tapped the brakes on the defensive hyperbole — and especially when it came to his team’s success against Westbrook.
“Sometimes the game makes you look better than you are,” he said. “I don’t feel like we are this defensive juggernaut. What I am saying is we want to keep working and getting better. In order to do that you have to give a complete effort. We’ve talked about that relative to our bench. That consistency has to be our calling card.”
As for Westbrook’s shockingly quiet scoring night — he did have 13 rebounds and nine assists — Snyder shrugged it off as just being in the right place at the right time.
“He didn’t make some shots that he makes. It wasn’t any magic formula that we came up with that impacted that,” Snyder said. “You can kid yourself if you think you have some magic game plan against Russell Westbrook. There isn’t one. You just do your best and hope for the best.”
Meanwhile, Utah, a team that lost its only current All-Star this offseason, had five guys in double digits, led by Ingles (7-of-12 shooting), Ricky Rubio (16 points, six rebounds, five assists and six turnovers), Rudy Gobert (16 points and 13 rebounds), Derrick Favors (13 points) and Joe Johnson (12 points).
“We moved the ball. We have such an unselfish group. That starts with Ricky. He’s such a good point guard at controlling the tempo for us and getting guys where they are,” Ingles said. “Like I said, we’ve got an unselfish group and it’s just fun to play. It’s fun to play when you have a great group of guys.”
JAZZ NOTES: Starting shooting guard Rodney Hood missed the game with mild lower leg strain. Rookie Donovan Mitchell started in his place, finishing with just two points on 1-of-7 shooting but leading the team with six assists. This was the first sellout in the newly renovated Vivint Arena, which now seats 18,300 instead of 19,911. Utah outscored OKC 40-20 in the paint. Rookie forward Royce O'Neale made his NBA debut. He grabbed one rebound and committed one foul in the final 44