Utah Jazz could jingle all the way despite key injury

Utah Jazz (Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports) /

Oh, what fun it is for the Utah Jazz to ride in a smooth Joe Ingles sleigh.

There’s still no telling when 33-year-old All-Star guard Mike Conley will return from the mild right hamstring strain that he suffered last week during the series-clincher against the Memphis Grizzlies. However, to the good fortune of the No. 1 seed Utah Jazz, they still have the services of another 33-year-old sharpshooter in fill-in starter Joe Ingles.

Even without Conley in the lineup and with Ingles shooting 1-for-8 from deep on Tuesday night — then leaving the Aussie a dismal 2-for-18 beyond the arc between the team’s most recent four outings — the Jazzmen were able to prevail over the No. 4 seed Los Angeles Clippers, 112-109, in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

Of course, it didn’t hurt at the time that Ingles managed to overlook his own 3-point woes by dishing out seven assists and committing only one turnover in his 32 minutes on the floor.

But Ingles’ resiliency, creativity, and reliable ballhandling have regularly been on full display across his seven seasons in Salt Lake City. With that in mind, it must now be quite easy for seventh-year Utah head coach Quin Snyder to count on his 6-foot-8, 220-pound niftily versatile veteran.

Utah Jazz succeeding with ‘Slow-Mo’ show

When “Jinglin’ Joe” produces heat to the extent of his performance on Thursday night, well, let’s just say the Utah Jazz have a shot in these NBA Playoffs to jingle all the way to the franchise’s first Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. Finishing No. 5 in the league this go-round with his 45.1 shooting percentage from outside, his sizzling shows are always a possibility.

Plus, as was the case in Game 2 via his 3-point splash with 3:07 to play that gave Utah a semi-comfortable 10-point lead and temporarily blew the roof off Vivint Arena, Joe Ingles is often a clutch performer.

In defeating the Clippers, 117-111, Ingles rediscovered his silky stroke, to the tune of a 7-for-10 clip from the field, including 4-for-7 from 3-point land. He finished with 19 points — second only to the 37 from Donovan Mitchell among Jazz starters — to go along with four rebounds, four assists, one steal, and only two turnovers in his 33 minutes of action.

Although fans often ponder on social media how the aging Ingles is able to maintain his stamina, he has, in fact, proven to be one of the most durable Jazzmen of the Quin Snyder era. Not only has he never missed more than five games in any regular season, but he’s also averaged right around 30 minutes per game these last four years, whether as a full-time starter or primary reserve.

Ingles’ craftiness as a lead guard alongside Mitchell seems to hide his relative lack of athleticism in a way that makes defenders second-guess themselves all game for their not being able to shut down those “Slow-Mo Joe” moves.

Adding to that, Joe Ingles’ incessant wit and trash-talking must drive opponents crazy.

All in all, no matter the Mike Conley recovery timeline, where there’s a jingle, there’s a way for the Utah Jazz to carry on as the group with what is now the outright best record this postseason at 6-1 overall.

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The Jazz and Clippers are set to meet in Los Angeles for Game 3 at 6:30 p.m. MT Saturday.