SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Before the game even started, Joe Ingles was exhausted.
Shooting videos with son Jacob, emotional meetings with other families affected by autism and generally doing all he could to promote Autism Awareness Night was almost too much.
“I told the guys before the game, I really didn’t know how I’d be,” said Ingles, who nearly finished with his first triple-double as the Utah Jazz beat the depleted Los Angeles Lakers 115-100 on Wednesday. “It was almost overwhelming, to be honest.”
Rudy Gobert had 22 points and 11 rebounds, Derrick Favors scored 20 and Jae Crowder added 16 points for the balanced Jazz, who had seven players in double figures and won for the eighth time in nine games.
Six weeks ago, Ingles went public with the news that his two-year-old boy was diagnosed with autism. Since then, he has been a vocal advocate for funding and awareness.
On the night, the Jazz and their sponsors presented a USD1.2 million cheque at halftime and promoted a text donation line to aid the cause. Vignettes of Ingles and his son were featured on the Jumbotron during timeouts.
On the court, Ingles provided plenty of helpers as well. His 14 assists were a career high and he added 11 points and nine rebounds. When he left the game with more than two minutes to play, he received a standing ovation. Then the crowd booed and chanted, “We want Joe!”
It seemed the only person in the entire arena who didn’t want to see Ingles go back in and grab that 10th rebound was Ingles himself.
“There was no chance. It’s not me. It’s not our team. We had a nice lead,” he said.
Crowder lobbied Ingles to stay on the court, to no avail.
“We felt it was a special night for Joe and to top it off with a triple-double would have made it even more special, but Joe don’t care,” Crowder said.
Kyle Kuzma paced the Lakers with 21 points after a four-game slump in which he shot just 32.9 per cent from the field and 29.7 per cent from three-point range. JaVale McGee had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Alex Caruso and Mo Wagner each added 13 points.
Los Angeles had won consecutive games for the first time since January but wasn’t competitive from the start without LeBron James in this one.
James sat out after he had 23 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds in a 124-106 win on Tuesday night against Washington. He had his eighth triple-double of the season (81st of his career) in last Sunday’s victory over Sacramento, but has been dealing with a swollen knee and sore groin.
Only four and a half games separate the third and eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race, and the Jazz are right in the middle of that pileup.
Meanwhile, the Lakers were eliminated from postseason contention last week, and it showed on the court.
Utah’s offence featured an abundance of movement and screens, while the Lakers spread the floor and often went with isolation plays. The result was 33 assists for the Jazz and a 58-38 advantage in the paint.
“They pass the ball. They share it. Hardly ever iso,” Kuzma said.