INDIANAPOLIS — A large pair of white, wireless Beats by Dre headphones were used to help Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell drown out the noise while going through his pregame routine at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
However, as soon as Mitchell noticed 11-year-old Jaden Wagner and his father, Joey — the University of Louisville’s basketball game day-emcee — Mitchell had to show them some love.
Before exiting the court to hit the locker room before tipoff, Mitchell made time to interact with Jaden and Joey, as well as former Louisville hoops manager-turned-lawyer, Nick Wilson, plus 12-year-olds Zach Brown and Brayden Wade.
The group made the nearly two-hour drive from Louisville to Indianapolis to support the former Cardinal as the Utah Jazz wrapped up a five-game road trip versus the Indiana Pacers.
“That’s the cool part about D is as big as he’s got he has not changed,” said Joey Wagner, who met Mitchell his senior year of high school.
Even with a bunch of Jazz fans in attendance wearing Mitchell, Gobert and Joe Ingles, Grayson Allen and Thabo Sefolosha jerseys, the Jazz were still out of sync in a 121-94 loss to the Pacers. The Louisville fans showing up were among a very short list of positives on the night for Utah.
“We were just a step slow in a lot of areas and that just begins with just our frame of mind,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “We have to be more urgent.”
Tyreke Evans started in place of Pacers All-Star guard Victor Oladipo, who missed the game with a sore right knee, but the Jazz still had no answers as Indiana shot 52.7 percent as a team from the field.
Indiana also scored 33 points off 19 Jazz turnovers, led by as many as 27 and dominated in nearly every other statistical category. The Pacers outscored Utah in points in the paint (54-36), second chance points (15-5), fast break points (12-4) and outrebounded them (44-36) just two nights after the Jazz’s gutsy 98-86 win at Boston.
“When I’ve been talking about ball movement and getting everyone involved, this is what we’re talking about,” said Pacers coach Nate McMillan. "Tonight, they executed the game plan perfectly.
“We needed to get pressure on Utah to disrupt their timing,” he continued. “I thought we did do that and then we got out and played at the tempo we wanted to play at.”
Jazz guard Ricky Rubio had the hot hand, matching his season-high of 28 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals. Rubio posted 12 of Utah’s 23 third-quarter points. He went 10 for 13 from the field while hitting all but one of his six 3-point attempts.
Mitchell went 3 for 8 for a season-low seven points, one assist and three turnovers in front of the Louisville fans but made no excuses for the team’s poor performance — especially on the defensive end.
“I think we’re locked in, we’ve just got to execute,” Mitchell said of the team’s defense. “We’re communicating during times but we’ve just got to get back to basics with doing a little bit more. In the first half, we did everything right, we’ve just got to do it a little better.”
Indiana dished out a season-best 35 assists on 49 field goals to post their second-largest victory of the season versus Utah. Domantas Sabonis flirted with his first NBA triple-double with a career-high nine assists to go along with 19 points and nine boards off the bench. Rookie Aaron Holiday’s also scored a season-high 19 points and seven rebounds while Bojan Bogdanovic ended with a team-high 21 points.
Jae Crowder was Utah’s second-leading scorer with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists off the bench. Rudy Gobert also recorded 11 rebounds and 12 points for his 15th double-double of the season.2 comments on this story
“We got down from the start,” Crowder said. “These guys came and hit us in the mouth in the first quarter and from that point on we were fighting an uphill battle.”
With the latest loss, Utah falls to 8-9 and will return to Vivint Arena for a rare home game against Sacramento on Wednesday, before playing five of the next six games on the road.
So, there’s no time for excuses.
“We’ve got to be better next time with our energy level and our effort,” Crowder said. “I feel like these guys had the effort where it needs to be to win.”