While the Minnesota Timberwolves were celebrating their victory, dousing Karl-Anthony Towns with water during his walk-off interview, the Utah Jazz somberly walked to the visiting team’s locker room, wondering how they were going to move on from what happened on Sunday night.
Yes, the Jazz lost a fifth straight game, losing by 20 points to the Wolves, but it was what happened shortly before halftime that shook the Jazz to their core and left them unable to focus through the rest of the night.
As Joe Ingles drove to the basket with 5:52 left on the second-quarter clock his left leg buckled underneath him and he collapsed on the court, yelling out in pain, grabbing for his knee, screwing up his face in clear agony.
“The loss hurts a lot but Joe … that took a lot out of guys,” Mike Conley said after the game. “Seeing him, tears in his eyes, knowing how much this means to him, this game means to him and what we mean to him, it’s tough. Not everything is supposed to be easy and we understand that. This will build, more character, this adversity that we’re going through. You just pray for Joe and hope that it’s as minimal as possible.”
The Jazz won’t know for sure the full extent of Ingles’ injury until probably midday on Monday after he undergoes further imaging and testing back in Salt Lake City, but listening to the players’ reactions seems to point to the Jazz fearing the worst.
At halftime the Jazz found Ingles in the X-ray room at the Target Center and tried to give him words of encouragement, but couldn’t really shake the fact that their ironman, the player who once had the longest streak consecutive games played by an active player, was in pain and unable to help them.
“He was in a tough state,” Conley said. “We told him that we loved him, gave him a hug, told him to keep fighting.”
The team wanted to go back out onto the court and fight for Ingles, to come away with a win to soften the blow of what a horrific night it had been. But the wind had already been taken out of their sails.
“It was pretty bad to see him in pain,” Bojan Bogdanovic said. “I hope it’s not as bad as it looks right now.”
The Jazz needed extra help from Jared Butler, Elijah Hughes and Eric Paschall just to field a full rotation on Sunday night, and while Conley said the team was proud that guys stepped up into roles that they aren’t used to, the Jazz couldn’t find any real footing and seemed to sort of float through the rest of the game.
“Losing Joe obviously had an impact on guys,” assistant coach Alex Jensen said on a night when he had to step in for head coach Quin Snyder who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the day. “It kind of compounds with the other things.”
The Jazz finished the month of January with a 4-12 record, losing five straight and 11 of the last 13. They’ve been playing without their two best players and are now fearful that Ingles might have suffered a season-ending injury.
Asked if it feels like the Jazz just can’t catch a break right now, Rudy Gay shook his head and nodded.
“It feels exactly like that,” Gay said. “But only the strong survive.”
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