It’s been a battle Joe Ingles has been fighting all season: Shoot or not to shoot.
The opponent is often himself.
After two subpar outings in the first-round series against Oklahoma City, Ingles had a breakout game at a critical moment for the Jazz, helping clinch a 115-102 Game 3 win with 21 points, including five 3-pointers.
As much as he overcame the defense of Paul George, one of the best wing defenders in the league, he also overcame some of his own instincts.
“Part of it is just Joe being aggressive,” coach Quin Snyder said. “Against their length, there’s times where you don’t feel like you’re open. ... Joe just had a more aggressive mindset tonight.”
Ingles acknowledged as much postgame: He took 15 shots, the same amount he had in Games 1 and 2 combined. But the Thunder, who had mostly stifled him before Saturday night, helped get him rolling.
In the first quarter, as the Thunder attempted to guard Jazz pick-and-rolls, Ingles was able to attack from the backside of Oklahoma City’s defense, which left him wide open on several looks. That’s the wrong shot to give to one of the NBA’s best 3-point shooters: In less than five minutes, Ingles had five points, but added two assists as well as the Thunder struggled to recover at the 3-point line.
That, it seemed, was the confidence Ingles needed to finally get rolling.
“I wanted to come out and try to be a bit more aggressive, but I wasn’t going to play out of our team’s system and out of the way we play,” Ingles said. “But I got some looks early and knock a couple down.”
Thunder coach Billy Donovan acknowledged the pick-and-roll broke down on the backside postgame, and his team needed to take fewer risks than they did.
But Ingles continued to get loose shooting the ball, and the Thunder continued to leave him open. He had his best quarter in the fourth, when George was threatening.
Out of a timeout with a 91-84 lead, Ingles subbed in and made a 3-pointer, a pair of free throws and then another 3-pointer to give the Jazz a 17-point margin. That was the catalyst that kept the game from getting close in the final minutes as the Thunder never got within double digits again.
That’s the kind of Ingles the Jazz need going forward, Snyder said. It helped, he added, that Ingles had a good defensive game, holding George to 23 points on 7 for 16 shooting. Ingles wasn’t on the floor when George started to get hot, but he did help finish the threat.
“When you do that, your offense just comes more naturally,” Snyder said. “He was able to get loose and get some clean looks and made them. They were big shots.”