Confession time: I was wrong about Joe Ingles.
Frequent readers (and followers on Twitter) could likely recount multiple instances where this writer was patently unconvinced by the Aussie’s game during the earlier parts of the season. He would pass up ridiculously open shots, including layups in transition, and seemed to possess virtually no aggressiveness at the NBA level. He too often tried for a fancy thread pass when a simpler one would have sufficed, or picked up his dribble too early and killed the flow of the offense. Much of this analysis centered around his age; while Jingles is indeed an NBA rookie, being in his late 20s meant that much of his skill development on the court was over. This proved to be premature.
He’s no superstar by any stretch, but Ingles has proven his place in the NBA since. He’s found his legs and developed far more synergy with the speed of the NBA game, and most importantly has been convinced to launch away when left space. And more recently, in a time where his team has needed a boost on the wing with another rash of untimely injuries, he’s stepped up in a big way.
With Gordon Hayward out for the second consecutive night and Rodney Hood also sidelined for the better part of a second straight game, Ingles picked up much of the slack. He’s now tied his season-high for field-goal attempts (10) in consecutive games, making over 50 percent and showcasing much more willingness to pursue his own offense.
“[There are] obviously minutes, [and] a lot of ball to go around in those positions,” he told me after the game in a dejected Jazz locker room. “I mean, I’m not gonna change the way I play or anything like that, but obviously having the ball a bit more, [I’ve] just gotta create a little bit more and shoot the shots that I get.”
On this night, though, it was more than just his offensive repertoire. Jingles was everywhere on the other end also, crashing passing lanes and playing excellent man defense. He was credited with three steals but likely helped influence at least a couple other turnovers, and to this eye may have finished with as many as seven or eight deflections in total. His coach enjoyed both sides of his game, which followed another stellar performance against Minnesota Monday night.
“I thought defensively tonight, he was really good,” said Quin Snyder. “He’s been a steadying force on the offensive end, we’re asking him to do a lot. [But] I thought he was really good – he’s kind of a unifying presence on offense as well.”
It was a tough finish for the Jazz on this night, but there are always a few silver linings even in disappointment, and Jingles is firmly within this category. He’s shown that even an older “rookie” can add layers to his game at a higher level, and has been invaluable for many of Utah’s youngest guys (Dante Exum in particular). He may well have carved out a place for himself in this team’s future with his play over the last couple months.
|Derrick Favors, PF 32 MIN | 9-19 FG | 8-9 FT | 13 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 26 PTS | +9 +/-Favors was magnificent, especially early, as the focal point of Utah’s offense. He was 8-8 from the line at one point before missing his final attempt, and dominated down low all night long. He also had Utah’s best on-court per-possession defensive figure among rotation guys, and was a plus-17.4 net per-100.|
|Rudy Gobert, C 34 MIN | 5-8 FG | 2-4 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -8 +/-Rudy’s numbers were fine, but to the naked eye he seemed a tad less than his usual bouncy self. He was bothered several times on the defensive glass by Robin Lopez, finishing with only 10 boards on 18 total opportunities, a curiously low figure by his standards.|
|Trey Burke, PG 39 MIN | 9-19 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 22 PTS | +7 +/-A big bounce-back game for Trey, who was accurate and engaged throughout while playing a season-high in minutes. He bailed the Jazz out of a couple bad offensive possessions and led the charge offensively when Favors hit the bench. The Jazz need this version of him more consistently.|
|Elijah Millsap, SG 33 MIN | 4-10 FG | 0-4 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 9 PTS | -8 +/-Millsap was perhaps Utah’s most aggressive player offensively, both for better and worse. He manufactured a few buckets and played his usual brand of stifling defense, but also may have been a bit too cavalier at a few points also. But his commitment and effort is plain to see, as always.|
|Dante Exum, SG 30 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -15 +/-Exum didn’t give us much chance to evaluate his play with the ball, especially in the second half – he barely had the thing. He flashed a few solid bits of penetration in the first and was great early defensively against Damian Lillard, but he has to be docked for even more of his usual absenteeism.|
|Trevor Booker, PF 23 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | 0 +/-Like Exum above, Booker wasn’t particularly visible for most of his minutes. He was in on an exciting series of Jazz defensive possessions in the third quarter and got a fast break dunk out of it, but was mostly anonymous otherwise.|
|Joe Ingles, SF 30 MIN | 4-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +2 +/-His box score doesn’t fully reflect the value Jingles brought tonight. He was the glue that kept the group together at times, and did an admirable job picking up the slack in Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood’s absence.|
|Ian Clark, SG 14 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +5 +/-Getting his first relevant run of the season, Clark seemed comfortable despite long stints on the bench or in the D-League. He was above average defensively on the wing, and while he could have been more involved offensively, it wasn’t an awful showing at all given the context.|
It’s hard to fault him much specifically, but this is the second consecutive game Quin’s team has failed to defend adequately in the fourth quarter to give up a winnable game. Much of this is variance and simple shot-making, but the buck stops with the head coach, and Snyder will be looking for more from his group next time out.