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PREVIEW: Surging Utah Jazz look to sprint past Indiana Pacers

Feb 5, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) passes during the second half against the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center. Jazz win 138-121. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

It isn’t the biggest game scheduled for Super Bowl Sunday, but the Utah Jazz-Indiana Pacers matinee matchup in Indianapolis offers an intriguing alternative to the football finale’s pregame shows.

The Jazz, who are an NBA best 18-5, have won three straight games after seeing their 11-game winning streak come to an end in Denver against the Nuggets on Jan. 31.

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Utah picked up its 14th win in 15 games Friday night in Charlotte, 138-121, despite a career night by LaMelo Ball and a solid showing by former Jazzman Gordon Hayward.

As has been the case so often this season, a multitude of Utah’s sharpshooters contributed in another high-scoring game. Former Pacers standout Bojan Bogdanovic led the way with 31 points, including seven of the Jazz’s franchise-record 26 3-pointers on 50 attempts.

All-Stars Donovan Mitchell (30 points) and Rudy Gobert (12 points, 15 rebounds) were also among the key contributors.

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Utah, which set an NBA record for most 3-pointers in a month in January, sizzled the nets on 52 percent shooting from beyond the arc as six different Jazz players made multiple deep shots. That came on a night when they also dished out 32 assists, led by Joe Ingles’ game-high 11.

“We knew coming into the game that we’d see different defenses on and off the ball, whether it be switching 1 through 5, blitzing, zone,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “I think the biggest thing was we needed to be in attack mode and understand that we can still move the ball, we can still be unselfish.”

Mike Conley, who played at Lawrence North High in Indianapolis, experienced hamstring tightness that limited the All-Star candidate to 20 minutes in one of the only negatives from the latest Jazz performance. He finished with 16 points and four 3-pointers. Mitchell (five treys), Jordan Clarkson (three), Royce O’Neale (three) and Ingles (two) also shot well from outside.

“Our point guards are doing a great job of finding all of us on the perimeter,” said Bogdanovic, who played in Indiana from 2017-19. “But everything starts from our defense. If we guard, we are able to run and shoot those transition 3s.”

The Pacers, meanwhile, are coming off of a one-point home loss to New Orleans on Friday night. Indiana is looking to find some consistency after losing four of five games and seven of 11 after a promising start to the season.

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Indiana fell behind the Pelicans by as many as 18 points late in the third quarter before storming back in the fourth quarter to briefly take a one-point lead with four minutes remaining.

Myles Turner had a chance to win the game in the final seconds, but he missed a short attempt and New Orleans grabbed the rebound.

“This group could have easily quit, but that’s not who we are,” Pacers reserve T.J. McConnell said. “We’re never going to lay down.”

Like the Jazz, Indiana shot the Friday night lights out. Jrue Holiday paced the team with 22 points, including making seven of his 13 shots from beyond the arc.

Indiana and Utah split the 2019-20 series, with each team winning at home.

–Field Level Media