Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 111-100 loss to the Indiana Pacers from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. The kerfuffle
You know what, let’s lead off talking about the skirmish. It’s more fun — and fun is why we do this basketball thing, right?
So in general, the referees had been letting a lot of contact go all game long, and the Jazz were pretty frustrated about this. Rudy Gobert felt he was fouled on this play... I don’t see it.
As he’s going down to the ground, he drags Myles Turner with him — probably somewhat in frustration and somewhat to stop the fast-break. But they both get up, and Turner shoves Gobert as he runs down the court. Gobert turns, and has a few good beats to decide what to do... and goes for the tackle/wrestle/hug.
These dudes weren’t really trying to fight each other! As Gobert said, “We know we’re not going to fight, so guys need to stop acting like we’re going to fight. We know in like a few seconds that there’s going to be like 20 security guards between us. Guys do it for the camera.”
Now, Joe Ingles does come in with great haste, shoving referee Ed Malloy in the process. And Donovan Mitchell approached the Pacers bench and said some words, but also didn’t exactly try too hard to get past security, either.
In the end, Malloy told me, via the pool reporter process, that Turner and Gobert were ejected for participating in an altercation. Ingles was ejected for contact with the referee, and Mitchell was ejected for “acting as an instigator and escalating the situation.” Noteworthy is that Ingles’ contact was deemed to be not intentional — if it were deemed intentional, he’d be facing a mandatory one-game suspension.
I don’t really see why Mitchell’s conduct was deserving of an ejection if Jimmy Butler’s wasn’t after the Nikola Jokic/Markieff Morris situation, but eh, it’s not that important — the Jazz were going to lose anyway. In general, I am more interested in Mitchell’s argument about the consistency of refereeing as a whole. In general, Mitchell felt like too much contact early in the game was being let go, and so the later skirmish was a natural consequence of the referees not having control of that one.
“If you established the ground early, ‘this is what we’re calling,’ then we don’t get to this point,” Mitchell said. “It should have been taken care of in the first quarter. ... That whole thing could have been avoided.”
And Jazz owner Ryan Smith seemed to agree from his courtside seat.
Malloy is semi-renowned for this, letting a game get chippy and then calling just bundles of techs all in one go. On the other hand, I don’t know if the refereeing was in the top five of reasons the Jazz lost tonight.
2. The Jazz were very bad at the basketball
So now that the fun stuff is out of the way... honestly, the Jazz played incredibly poorly tonight. They lost to a 4-8 Indiana Pacers team that’s missing T.J. Warren and Caris LeVert, coming off a back-to-back, at altitude.
Quite simply, the Jazz didn’t do anything defensively with any care at all. I don’t know, should I show you videos? I guess so.
Malcolm Brogdon is a 38% career 3-point shooter... you can’t just shrug your shoulders about him shooting a three like this. Royce, whatcha doin’?
Turner is a career 36% 3-point shooter, and is shooting 45% from 3 this year. Rudy, whatcha doin’?
I think half of the players think they’re playing man and half think they’re playing zone. Entire team, whatcha doin’?
The Pacers got as many offensive rebounds as the Jazz had defensive rebounds in the second half, led by high-energy guy T.J. McConnell. So I don’t think it was a brilliant idea for Mitchell to let him sink into the paint unscathed, O’Neale to not go after the board, and then for absolutely no one to go after McConnell while he had the ball in his hands either. The Jazz were neither ball-watching nor man-watching. Jazz, whatcha doin’?
I literally have double-digit more videos where Mike Conley or Joe Ingles were backdoored, or Mitchell or Paschall lost someone in transition, or someone didn’t run back on defense because they were complaining to the referee, or Whiteside clearly just didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing on a play, among other errors. It was nonsense basketball. It’s not even that the Pacers played that well — they missed a ton of shots. They just wanted to win more, and it showed.
3. How many tragedies can we have?
I wondered how much of the Jazz not really coming to play tonight was due to the tragedy that happened this week with Izzy Tichenor. The players insisted that it wasn’t due to that, and so I probably have to believe them. Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles were at the forefront of that emotionally, and while both were part of the defensive problem, everyone was, and both guys played reasonably well offensively.
But man, it’s just such a deflating situation. Mitchell looks at his wit’s end when it comes to problems of racism in Utah — how many more Black bullying victims is he going to need to console? Remember this?
And of course, bullying isn’t the only kind of racist incident he’s had to deal with over the last few years. There was the Ja Morant stuff last playoffs, the Russell Westbrook situation, the Dennis Lindsey/Elijah Millsap situation, Utah legislators complaining that he blocked a bill on Critical Race Theory, a Jazz fan being upset that he tweeted about Juneteenth, a Jazz fan being upset that he supported Black Lives Matter, the school that allowed parents to opt out of teaching their Black History Month curriculum, and RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen calling RSL staff the n-word and threatening to lynch an opponent.
I honestly didn’t expect that sentence to get that long. But Mitchell has responded to every one of those incidents, either in the media or on Twitter. I might be missing others.
That’s insane, guys. We have a problem. And frankly, I’m sorry, no other market asks their athletes to handle a laundry list like the one above — there’s either less racism or more prominent Black figures to respond to them. Mitchell has handled every one of those incidents with grace, but how tired do you think he is of dealing with that?
Ingles, too, looked heartbroken when we talked to him today — he spoke to Tichenor’s mom for an hour on Wednesday. Can you imagine how emotionally wrenching that conversation must have been? Especially as a parent of a child with autism himself? Jacob’s five years old, and Joe loves it in Utah — but does he feel good about sending his kids to school here? And remember, Ingles is fresh off of dealing with the Lindon Cameron shot-by-police situation a year ago.
It’s the worst.
I love Utah with all my heart. I think I’ll likely stay here for my whole life. It’s my home. But boy, this week... I’ve felt real doubts, real misgivings about what’s going on here. It hurts so, so much.