SALT LAKE CITY — During an in-arena TV interview after Saturday’s game, Joe Ingles jokingly accused Rudy Gobert of being a ballhog.
“He wants the ball every time, which is annoying,” Ingles said, tongue-in-cheek, of the center who’s played well in two games since a 15-game absence. “But, hey, he’s been good for us.”
Gobert didn’t hear the sarcastic barb, but, coincidentally, the French center had some fun at the 30-year-old small forward’s expense in the locker room after the Jazz beat the Los Angeles Clippers 125-113 at Vivint Arena.
“When he asks for the ball, he can score,” Gobert said of Ingles, who tied his career-high with 21 points against the team that waived him before Utah picked him up. “Hopefully, he can do it every game now — just shoot the ball.”
That, by the way, wasn’t the jesting jab.
Ingles did shoot the heck out of the ball in the first three quarters, hitting 5 of 9 3-pointers while scoring all 21 of his points. The small forward’s strong play — he also had four steals, three rebounds and two assists through three quarters — helped spark Utah to a game-high 25-point lead before settling on a 104-87 advantage heading into the final 12 minutes of action.
The Jazz, by the way, came into this contest averaging just 101.3 points per 48-minute game, so the Ingles-assisted explosion on the tail end of a back-to-back set was quite the nice surprise.
The Jazz pointed to unselfish ball movement as being a key to the offensive fireworks, which included the Jazz scoring a season-best 76 points in the first half. That was the most they’ve scored in a half all season and just the second time they eclipsed the 70-point mark in a half.
“When the ball sticks or stays on one side of the floor, we’re not going to be as efficient,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said when asked about Ingles’s big night. “We’re a team that needs the ball to move side to side, and, when it does, Joe’s usually involved in helping it move, and he’s the beneficiary lot of times of that movement.”
Ingles is doing a little bit of everything for the Jazz this season after signing a four-year, $52 million deal this past offseason. But he hasn’t been a consistently high-quantity shooter or scorer, averaging 9.4 points on 7.7 shots per game, because rookie Donovan Mitchell has filled the offensive void left by Gordon Hayward’s departure.
Both wings had strong offensive outings on this night, with Mitchell scoring a team-high 23 and Ingles having his first 20-point game of the season. His previous season-high was 19 against Oklahoma City back in October.
“He was ready to shoot it, was aggressive,” Snyder said of Ingles, who matched a career-high he set when scoring 21 against Golden State on Dec. 8, 2016. “Particularly early, I thought he gave us a real lift to see the ball go in the basket with some timely threes.”
Ingles returned to the starting lineup in this game after agreeing to come off the bench to shake things up on Friday night. Rodney Hood didn’t play because of a lower leg contusion, so Ingles started for the 45th time in 46 games.
Gobert, for one, was happy to see him take as many shots as he did. Ingles hit 8 of 15 shots overall.
The Stifle Tower chuckled when a reporter asked if he’s among the players who yells for Ingles to shoot more often. He wants that, for sure.
“Except when I’m on the court,” Gobert said. “When I’m on the court, I want him to pass.”
After wins, everybody humorously says they want something different from somebody else on the team. Even Snyder offered proof of that.
“Rudy’s an offensive center,” the Jazz joked when it was mentioned the Jazz had scored 115 and 125 since his return. “I’d like to see him start defending.”
If that includes giving the ball up to his Aussie teammate on occasion, Ingles would be all for that.