The Utah Jazz have been building towards the Playoffs for a couple of seasons, and after falling agonisingly short last season, they are back in the postseason in 2017.
The young core of Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert and Rodney Hood have flourished this season and the veteran additions of George Hill and Joe Johnson have added a new-found depth to the squad.
Then there is Joe Ingles. He has played a legitimately important role for the Jazz all season long, and in doing so has proved many people wrong who laughably thought he wasn’t worthy of an NBA roster spot.
Ingles has played all 81 games (final regular season game is tomorrow against the Spurs), averaging 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 24 minutes of game time.
There is no doubt that he will play an integral role against the Los Angeles Clippers in his first appearance in the NBA Playoffs.
His shooting has been fire all season long; 44% from downtown is good enough for third best in the ENTIRE league.
The heatmap above says it all. A whole lot of 🔥.
Here’s 10 minutes of Jingles triples just for fun.
A lot has been made of Ingles’ three-point shooting, and deservedly so, but the Clippers would be fools to ignore other facets of his game.
His ability to pass the ball and make the right play has always been in his arsenal, and with some great players around him, not to mention a great coach and system, Ingles is able to play to these strengths.
The Clippers possess plenty of firepower, obviously led by Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. They want to get out and run and do it well when they are fully fit – which admittedly has been a problem for them in recent times.
The Clippers average 108.6 point a game, whereas the Jazz average just 100.7. This is why the focus on defence will be key for the Jazz.
With the defensive anchor that is Rudy Gobert, the Jazz are one of the best defences in the league – allowing the fewest point per game in the league and possessing the third best defensive rating.
Ingles is by no means a defensive beast, but his defence has improved dramatically since entering the league. In Coach Snyder’s system, Ingles is able to play solid team defence and with his quick hands can get in passing lanes and grab steals.
It goes without saying, but a lot will come down to who can control the tempo of games for longer. The Jazz want to play a slower game – they are ranked last in the league for pace, with 93 possessions per game, compared to the Clippers who are middle of the pack with 98 possessions per game.
This match-up is going to be a lot of fun. Home-court advantage is still to be decided – if the Clippers beat the Kings tomorrow, they will lock up the fourth seed, but if the Clippers lose and Jazz win, the Jazz get the fourth seed.
In their four meetings this season, the Clippers hold a 3-1 advantage. However, in those meetings both teams have had key players missing, so take those results with a grain of salt.
Although I’m sure Joe Ingles would never go down this path, a small part of me can’t help but look forward to the Jingleman getting a little bit of payback against the Clippers in this series.
Ingles and the Clippers had a short-lived relationship back in 2014 when Ingles signed a non-guaranteed contract with the team, but was waived before the regular season began.
Since being waived by the Clippers, Ingles has obviously found a home in Utah and it has all worked out very well for him, but I am definitely looking forward to seeing what he can produce against the Clippers.
The future is unknown for Ingles, a free-agent at the conclusion of the season, but one thing is for sure; a strong showing in the Playoffs could net him a massive payday in July.
Time to get jinglin’!