Joe Ingles helps Jazz make NBA Finals impact

Apr 16, 2017 | by news.com.au

JOE Ingles sat in the Utah Jazz locker room with ice packs on his knees and a big smile on his face.

The Jazz had just entered the Los Angeles Clippers’ home court, Staples Centre, for game one of their NBA playoff series, lost their star centre Rudy Gobert to a knee sprain in the opening 17 seconds and held on for a buzzer-beating 97-95 victory.

Ingles started the game and played 32 minutes, including a key role in the final play that opened up veteran forward Joe Johnson who cut to the basket and floated a jump shot that bounced on the rim and then fell through the net for the game winner as time expired.

It was a dream NBA post-season debut for the 29-year-old from the Adelaide suburb of Happy Valley.

“It’s kind of like everything you watch on TV and everything you believe and see,” Ingles said in the upbeat Jazz locker room.

The Jazz held a seven-point lead with four minutes to go, but the Clippers fought back and with 13 seconds left LA’s All-Star point guard Chris Paul banked a floating jump shot to tie the game 95-95.

For the final play Utah had the ball and Ingles had Clippers’ guard, Jamal Crawford, defending him.

Another LA All-Star, forward Blake Griffin, was guarding Johnson. Ingles and Johnson were able to force Griffin to switch to defend the smaller Ingles, leaving Johnson one-on-one with the smaller Crawford. Johnson used his size to overpower Crawford and hit the game winner. “I thought, if I can, to try to make them switch,” Ingles said. Ingles had eight points, two assists and two steals in 32 minutes while Johnson, coming off the bench, had 21 points.

The Jazz’s other Australian, Dante Exum, was left on the bench for the entire game.

Griffin had 26 points and seven rebounds and Paul finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists.

Game two is in Los Angeles on Tuesday, with the best-of-seven series then moving to Salt Lake City for games three and four.

Elsewhere, C.J. Miles missed a wide-open jumper at the buzzer and the Cavaliers held on to beat the Indiana Pacers 109-108 in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference first-round series.

LeBron James led all scorers with 32 points to go with 13 assists and six rebounds. His teams have an 18-game winning streak in the first round and are 41-7 lifetime.

Kawhi Leonard matched his career playoff high with 32 points despite sitting out the fourth quarter as San Antonio used a big third quarter to forge a victory over Memphis in Game 1 of the first-round Western Conference playoff series. Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Monday in San Antonio. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 28 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead Milwaukee to a victory over Toronto in the opener of their best-of-seven first- round playoff series.

Toronto dropped to 0-9 in the opening game of a first-round playoff series and 1-10 overall in Game 1.

Malcolm Brogdon added 16 points for the Bucks, Greg Monroe had 14 points and nabbed 15 rebounds, Tony Snell had 11 and Khris Middleton chipped in with 10 points and nine assists.