Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles did his best Kevin Durant impression on opening night; the two will go toe-to-toe in Game No. 2.
The Utah Jazz may have dropped 123 points on the Sacramento Kings on opening night, but their uneven performance doesn’t exactly inspire confidence heading into a showdown with the Golden State Warriors. Not only will the Jazz have to re-engage their team defense to keep pace with Golden State, but they’ll need to have some big-time individual efforts across the board.
Perhaps no Jazzman came up bigger in Sac-Town than Joe Ingles. The Aussie scored 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, hit four threes and added six assists and four steals in the game. A repeat performance would do wonders for Utah against the defending world champions.
The problem: Ingles will be tasked with slowing down Kevin Durant — the best player in the NBA not named LeBron. KD paced the Warriors to an eight-point win over OKC in their opener, dropping a 27-8-6 line in the process.
Ingles will never stop him or out-gun him offensively. That said, he’s absolutely capable of mitigating at least some of the damage he’ll do.
With Durant being the superior athlete, look for Ingles to use physicality on defense to help level the playing field. In doing so, he must take care to remain sound positionally and keep from overplaying. It’s OK if he gets beat, it’s not OK if he consistently beats himself.
He can’t hesitate to fire when the offense generates looks for him, either. KD’s length could seriously degrade Ingles’ ability to find space, so he needs to take advantage of every opening that presents itself.
This won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but Ingles’ one-on-one match-up with Durant hasn’t been one that has favored the Jazz traditionally.
Durant’s teams have won eight of 11 contests head-to-head while Slow Mo’ Joe has lived up to his moniker, putting up six points per game and hitting just 36.6 percent of his shots. In fact, Ingles didn’t make a single shot attempt in any of their first five games against one another.
More recently, though, Ingles has been much more impactful. And if his performance in Sacramento is any indication, he’ll be making KD work on both ends of the floor when the Jazz host the Warriors on Friday.
Another 20-plus point effort is probably a tough ask, but willing defense, hitting open shots and finding his teammates are all within the realm of possibility against the 2018 NBA Finals MVP.
The Jazz and the Warriors will do battle at Vivint Arena on Friday night; tip-off is at 8:30 PM MT.