Before the big game kicks off Sunday evening, make sure to get your hoops fix by checking out the Utah Jazz battling the Indiana Pacers on NBA League Pass (1 ET). Here are five things to watch during this matchup:
1. Jazz Are Rolling
Utah is 14-1 in its last 15 games dating back to Jan. 8. That’s a pretty strong month of hoops. During this stretch, the Jazz rank third in points scored (118.1 per game) and points allowed (only 104.0), giving them a league-high 14.1 differential. All but one of their games during this run have been decided by double-digits.
Led by Donovan Mitchell’s 24.6 ppg, the Jazz have four players averaging at least 16 ppg during this 15-game stretch, with Jordan Clarkson (18.7 ppg off the bench), Bojan Bogdanovic (18.0 ppg) and Mike Conley (16.0 ppg) joining Mitchell.
And that list doesn’t include Rudy Gobert, who has been strong on both ends of the court, averaging 12.7 points, 13.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks. Joe Ingles is the sixth Jazz player averaging in double figures at 10.4 ppg, while appearing in 11 of the 15 games.
Can Utah keep this momentum in Indianapolis? The Jazz are 9-3 on the road this season, trailing only the Los Angeles Lakers for the best road record in the league.
2. Mitchell Playing Like an All-Star
Donovan Mitchell ranked fifth among Western Conference guards in the first NBA All-Star ballot returns, trailing Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard and Ja Morant in the fan vote.
Whether he’s voted in as a starter or not — we have to wait for the final fan returns, which account for 50 percent of the vote, as well as the 25 percent apiece from current players and media — it is highly likely that Mitchell will earn his second straight All-Star nod.
The fourth-year pro is averaging 23.3 points and is shooting a career-best 41.5 percent from 3-point range on a career-high 8.4 attempts per game, and also dishing out a career-high 4.6 dimes a contest.
3. Long-Distance Shooting and Defense
The Jazz lead the NBA with 17.1 3-pointers made per game and have the second-highest 3-point percentage at 40.7%. Utah is on pace to make the most 3-pointers per game of any team in league history. The Houston Rockets currently hold the top three marks — coming in each of the past three seasons — but Utah is ahead of that pace by 1.0 3-pointer made per game.
- Utah (2020-21): 17.1
- Houston (2018-19): 16.1
- Houston (2019-20): 15.6
- Houston (2017-18): 15.3
- Dallas (2019-20): 15.1
Utah could be in a for a big night behind the arc as the Pacers allow the highest 3-point percentage in the league (39.7%). They do hold their opponents to the sixth-fewest 3-point attempts (32.5 per game). However, the Jazz have attempted fewer than 32 3-point attempts only once this season – in their last game, which was a 21-point win over Atlanta.
4. Sabonis Should Join Mitchell at All-Star
Another player looking for his second straight All-Star selection is Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis, who is currently ranked seventh among Eastern Conference front court players in the fan vote.
Here is the list of players currently averaging at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists: two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokoumpo, Nikola Jokic, Julius Randle and Sabonis. There have been only 14 players in league history that have averaged those numbers for an entire season.
- Larry Bird (4x)
- Wilt Chamberlain (4x)
- Elgin Baylor (3x)
- Kevin Garnett (3x)
- Russell Westbrook (3x)
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2x)
- Giannis Antetokounmpo (2x)
- Oscar Robertson (2x)
- Charles Barkley
- DeMarcus Cousins
- Billy Cunningham
- Nikola Jokic
- Chris Webber
- Sidney Wicks
Sabonis ranks second in the league in double-doubles with 20 in his first 23 games of the season. After putting up back-to-back 30-point double-doubles, Sabonis was held to a season-low eight points in a loss to New Orleans on Friday. Can Sabonis bounce back with a big performance against Gobert and the Jazz?
5. Screen Coming
When it comes to setting screens, there aren’t many that do it better than Sabonis and Gobert. The two are tied for the league lead in screen assists with 6.7 per game each. The Jazz average 16.5 ppg off Gobert screens, while the Pacers average 15.9 ppg off Sabonis screens.
Between the 21.0 points that he scores, the 15.0 points created by his traditional assists and the 15.9 points created by his screen assists, Sabonis is involved in 51.9 of Indiana’s 113.9 points per game (45.6%).
According to Synergy play type data, the Jazz lead the league with 25.0 ppg coming from pick-and-roll ball handler plays thanks in large part to Gobert’s screens. Mitchell accounts for a team-high 8.7 of those points.