Can the Indiana Pacers win in a battle of mismatches against the Utah Jazz?

Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz - Credit: Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz - Credit: Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports /

Fresh off a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Jokic-less Denver Nuggets, the Indiana Pacers will not have time to pout, as they are slated to battle the upstart Utah Jazz, owners of the second-best record in the West, on the second night of a back-to-back on the road.

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Even if the narrative was different yesterday and the Pacers managed to pull out a win, they certainly won’t be favorites entering the matchup, with the Jazz, last season’s number one seed, starting off hot once again. Now, with Indiana embarrassingly losing to worn down Denver, they will be substantial underdogs against Utah factoring in their fatigue, but most importantly, their sheer vulnerability to the Jazz’s style of play.

The Indiana Pacers are in for a tough clash of styles against the Utah Jazz

From defensive-minded Denver, the Indiana Pacers will face a more balanced and dangerous opponent in Utah. Not only can the Jazz systematically guard their opponents effectively (eighth in defensive rating), but they can also obliterate their adversaries with their barrage of perimeter shot creators supercharging their scoring attack (third in offensive rating).

All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are their pillars on offense and defense, but Utah has more than enough depth to compensate for when their star players have rough shooting nights between dangerous creators like Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, and Joe Ingles.

The Pacers, on the other hand, are far more conventional than the Jazz, which exclusively play small around their bigs. Indiana will not only have to impose their will and try to outsmart Utah’s heady and Gobert-centric defense, but they also need to defend them with both physicality and awareness (and a bit of luck, to be honest) in hopes of turning their road trip around. After all, while Utah is dead-last in the league in assists percentage, they have radioactive one-on-one players who can bail them out when the defense is firm against them.

Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner can’t be reasonably expected to trump Gobert in the post, so their three-point shooting will be crucial for the Pacers to entice the three-time DPOY into closing out on the perimeter and prevent him from deterring shots at the rim, where Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert, if he’ll play, can feast without the Stifle Tower.

It’s difficult to be optimistic about the Indiana Pacers’ chances at beating the Utah Jazz in their current outfit, but if they make the right concessions, adapt on the fly, and hope for some complacency from their opponents, then they will have a chance at redeeming themselves from an unacceptable defeat.

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