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Whistles everywhere: Jazz rout Pacers in foul fest of a game

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SALT LAKE CITY — With 4:12 left in the first half, the Indiana Pacers finished off a rally to wipe out a 15-point Utah Jazz lead.

A little over three minutes later, that lead was back — and then some.

The Jazz reeled off a 17-0 run that featuring dunks, transition 3-pointers and all sorts of defensive fun. That run laid the groundwork to Utah's 139-119 blowout victory over the upstart Pacers.

If only the game had ended at halftime.

If that were the case, fans would have gone home with fresh memories of Jordan Clarkson and Jarred Vanderbilt doing fun things and even got home in time to watch the end of the Pac-12 championship game.

Instead, they sat through one of the more agonizing quarters of basketball.

At the end of the third quarter, the teams played six possessions straight without a whistle; that's only notable because of what happened before. The third quarter was a foul fest ... and a violation fest ... and a refs-can't-let-any-play-go-without-a-whistle fest.

The teams combined for 17 fouls and 12 turnovers in a third quarter that went on and on and on.

"It was a weird, weird game," Walker Kessler said, "Especially that third quarter. The third quarter was like 45 minutes. It definitely was interesting."

During the slow-moving quarter, the fans booed the refs — that's normal at Vivint Arena, no doubt, but it wasn't even about a specific call; it was frustration over not being able to watch basketball.

Every little thing — from slight hand checks to little bumps — seemed to prompt a whistle. Add in the delay of games, travels and refs taking time to conference after calls, and it made for one disjointed game.

"There is a flow to a basketball game, and when there's a lot of fouling going on, that can lead to some of that disjointed feeling," Jazz coach Will Hardy said. "Also, turnovers in bunches can give you that same feeling. So it was an odd night."

Hardy said it's expected to have a couple of those type of games each season, when the league's points of emphasis are strictly followed and the players are a little slow to adjust. To be clear, Hardy or the Jazz didn't think the calls were necessarily wrong, games just usually aren't so tight.

By the end of the game, the Pacers and Jazz combined for 63 fouls, which just so happens to be the most fouls in a game this season — just what everyone wants to see. It was the most fouls in a Jazz game since 2015, which also happened to be against the Pacers.

"It slows the game down, but it is what it is," Lauri Markkanen said.

The worst part? Those whistles didn't have much bearing on the result. Indiana never got within single digits in the second half, and the Jazz were up by 20 or more points for most of the fourth quarter.

It was a rout, and an impressive one, too — if you could think through all the whistles. The Jazz made Indiana's defense look silly.

Markkanen had 24 points and 13 rebounds to lead six Jazz players in double figures. Rookie Kessler had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and was the best rookie in a game that featured Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month winner Bennedict Mathurin.

Clarkson had 19 points, Collin Sexton added 18, and Malik Beasley finished with 16 points in the well-rounded effort.

And due to the muddled second half, that late run going into halftime proved quite important. It gave Utah a big lead, so a clean third and fourth quarter weren't actually needed.

"We forced a couple of turnovers in a row, Vando was able to get out in transition," Hardy said of the critical run. "I think it was two or three baskets in a row off turnovers, and that kind of sparked our momentum and then we had them on their heels for a couple of minutes there."

Good thing, too, since after that, momentum was hard to come by.

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