Jazz hopes to get reinforcements against Lance Stephenson, Pacers


January 5, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, United States; Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (6) dribbles the ball while Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) defends in the second half at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

While they will both enter Saturday night’s game in Indianapolis after losses, the Utah Jazz and Indiana Pacers both had positive results that helped soften the blow.

Those silver liners add to the intrigue of this game, which is the second straight game for the Jazz and the first outing since Wednesday for the Pacers.

Indiana’s loss to Kyrie Irving and Brooklyn presented a touching comeback, and not just for the Nets star. Lance Stephenson played the first home game of his third stint with the Pacers. The fan favorite of the Pacers, who is on a 10-day contract, finished with 30 points to Indiana’s delight.

“I am so happy to be here, this is my home,” said Stephenson. “It’s like playing in front of your family.

Stephenson was brilliant when he entered the game. He scored the last 20 points of the first quarter, which was an NBA record for points in a first quarter by a player coming off the bench.

The 31-year-old has taken an interesting route back to Indy. He was with the Lakers in 2018-19, played in China for the Liaoning Flying Leopards in 2019-20, and then spent time in the G-League in 2021 with Grand Rapids Gold. The Atlanta Hawks signed him to a 10-day contract in December, and the Pacers then picked him up after that deal expired.

“As soon as I put on that jersey, I feel like I have my powers.… I just feel comfortable,” Stephenson said. “And when you play in front of people who are happy that you are playing and tell you and cheer you on, it makes the game easier. “

Even with Stephenson’s night and a Domantas Sabonis triple-double – 32 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists – Indiana fell for the sixth straight game on Wednesday.

“It was amazing,” Sabonis said of Stephenson’s effort. “He’s been through a lot and coming home and having this kind of game for him, that means a lot. I wish we could have gotten the win for him.

The bright side of Jazz also included big nights from unexpected sources.

Utah played without eight key players, including their starting lineup, Friday in Toronto. Despite that, the bench-end jazz players seized their opportunity and scared the Raptors, building a 17-point lead.

Eventually, the infrequently used Jazz players ran out of steam and Fred VanVleet saved Toronto by scoring 17 straight points in the third quarter to erase a 14-point deficit.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder couldn’t complain about his players’ efforts, however. They competed and stayed close for most of the course, led by career highs of Eric Paschall (29 points), Elijah Hughes (26) and Jared Butler (17).

“I was really happy and proud of the guys who were there tonight and the way they competed,” Snyder said.

The Jazz played without Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles, who entered NBA health and safety protocol after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier in this five-game road trip.

Donovan Mitchell (back), Mike Conley (right knee) and Bojan Bogdanovic (left finger) did not make it to Toronto following Wednesday’s victory in Denver. And Rudy Gay (right heel), Royce O’Neale (right knee) and Jordan Clarkson (back) were dismissed.

Utah recovered Hassan Whiteside after running out of time in the NBA concussion protocol.

Everyone except Gobert and Ingles are expected to play in Indiana, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

–Field level media

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