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Joe Ingles downplays so-called rivalry with Paul George as he steps into starting lineup for Mike Conley

Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles (2) reacts to a foul call as LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) hits the floor during Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 8, 2021.

Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles (2) reacts to a foul call as LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) hits the floor during Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News )



SALT LAKE CITY — It didn't take long for the Vivint Arena crowd to start up the old taunts. Paul George stepped to the free throw line and a chant filled the capacity arena.

"Push off P. Push off P. Push off P."

The fan favorite jeer from a playoff series now three years old still has some legs to the fans. But George's main nemesis from Utah's 4-2 series win over Oklahoma City doesn't think those games all those years ago have anything to do with what Utah's facing now.

George infamously was 2 of 16 from the field in the elimination game of that series, as Joe Ingles' incessant defense and talking paid its toll.

Now, with Mike Conley missing at least the first two games of the series — the Jazz announced after Thursday's shootaround that Conley, who was arguably Utah's best player in the first round, would miss Game 2 with a mild right hamstring strain — Ingles and George are lined up together again.

But Ingles doesn't see it that way.

"The whole narrative of Joe vs. Paul George is kind of a little bit old in my mind," he said Thursday morning. "It's the Jazz vs the Clippers; it was OKC vs. the Jazz."

He obviously wants to limit him as much as possible — George was 4 of 17 from the field in Game 1 but got to the line 10 times (giving fans plenty of chances to serenade him) — but it's not a personal battle by any means.

"It's 10 guys on the court, and obviously we've got to defend as a team and that's what we've done all year," Ingles said. "I personally don't read into the one-on-one stuff."

Especially from something that stems from a series years ago.

"I mean, three years ago was a long time. Like my twins were barely talking then and now they're five and annoy the hell out of me," Ingles said. "Three years is a long time. So yeah, I mean, I hope he's happy there and whatever, but it's the Jazz vs. the Clippers and that's all I'm focused on."

Ingles had his own struggles from the field in Game 1, continuing a cold playoffs for the usual sharpshooting Aussie. Ingles was a 45% 3-point shooter this season, but over the last four playoff games he's gone 5 of 25 from deep, including a 1 for 8 performance Tuesday.

"I'm sure you're going to hint at me not shooting well," Ingles said before answering the question he was sure that was going to come. "I'm going to keep shooting, even though I didn't shoot well, and I haven't been shooting well."

He wasn't alone in those shooting woes on Tuesday, though. The Jazz went 5 of 20 as a team in the first quarter and at one point missed 20 straight shots.

"We're not planning to miss 21 tonight," Ingles deadpanned. "That was the main thing we talked about at film this morning."

Even when his shots aren't falling, Ingles is one of Utah's most important players. His playmaking ability is even more needed — he had seven assists in Game 1 — with Conley out. And the spacing he provides on the perimeter, due to his long track record as one of best shooters in the game, gives the offense more room to operate.

"If he's 2 for 2, I'd rather have him be 1 for 9," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "That impacts the game as much as anything and that allows him to do other things."

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