Negative: Played down to competition
Even in a double-digit win, the Pacers still have the same problems that have haunted them for years, with the main one on Wednesday being how close the Jazz played them for the first three quarters.
Coming into the Pacers game, the Jazz were the 14th seed in the Western Conference with a record of 2-6, losing their games by an average margin of 15.5 points. The Jazz also had the 29th worst defensive rating in the league and were overall just a one-man show, with Lauri Markkanen doing most of the work, leading the team with 24 points per game.
Besides him, no other Jazz player was really stepping up in the scoring department, with the second-best scorer being John Collins at 14.8 per game and the third being Jordan Clarkson with 13.3 per game on abysmal 34/27/75 shooting splits.
However, judging from the first half, you would not be able to guess that the Jazz were the inferior team, as they kept pace with the Pacers and even had the lead for some chunks of the game, going up by as much as 10 in the first quarter.
Indy started the game hot, going on a 7-0 run and dominating the Jazz as they were expected to. However, Utah quickly retaliated, going on a 29-12 run of their own right after, to lead by 10 points with 2:39 left in the first, with Jordan Clarkson himself leading the charge, seemingly forgetting all about his terrible shooting going into the game and turning over a new leaf just in time to face the Pacers.
The Pacers ended the first quarter tied 29-29 and played much better in the second quarter to get a seven-point lead going into halftime despite a 10-point second quarter from Simone Fontecchio, of all people, the Jazz won the third quarter.
Clarkson once again put the team on his back to score 13 more points on 5/9 shooting as the Jazz outscored Indiana by four in the third. Luckily, the Pacers' defense tightened up in the fourth, holding Clarkson to 1/5 shooting while getting some scoring help from Aaron Nesmith himself en route to the eventual 16-point win.
While the final score is going to read a double-digit win for the Pacers, it is important to notice that the game was up for grabs until Indiana's barrage in the fourth quarter settled the night.
There is no reason they should have been in that close of a fight with the 2-6 Utah Jazz, who were missing their best defender in Walker Kessler at that. Keep in mind that Jordan Clarkson was playing awful before the Pacers game and somehow ended the night with 33 points.
Indiana's improved defense held Clarkson and Lauri Markkanen at bay in the fourth quarter. That is something they should have been doing all game, and it is very important for Indiana to know that.
The Pacers currently have the best offense in the NBA with a slowly improving defense, and to make the playoffs and make some noise in the East, they cannot be letting far inferior teams feel like they have a chance at victory.
Remember, it's the little things that come first, like beating the Jazz and Hornets, before you can go out and upset the Celtics or the Bucks, which the Pacers will be looking to do on Thursday as they finish their back-to-back as they welcome Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, and the Milwaukee Bucks to Gainsbridge Fieldhouse.