In the waning moments of a blowout victory, the fans at Vivint Smart Home Arena started to chant.
“We want Joe! We want Joe.”
They wanted Joe Ingles back out on the floor. They wanted him to grab one more rebound. They wanted him to have a triple-double. They wanted a perfect storyline on a night that meant so much to the Utah Jazz forward.
Ingles, on a night that meant so much to him, wagged his finger.
As he has learned well over the past few months, perfect is sometimes different than what we all expect.
“It was just a special night,” Ingles said.
Ingles’ 2-year-old son Jacob was diagnosed with autism in January and Wednesday was Autism Awareness Night at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
The Jazz forward finished with 11 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers. But more importantly, Ingles and his wife Renae Ingles helped raise awareness and donations for a cause that is now near and dear to their hearts.
The Ingleses expected an emotional night.
“I was just glad I was able to do something,” Joe Ingles said, “because I didn’t know how I was going to be. It’s been not just an emotional kind of day but the last few months.”
Joe Ingles started the evening, dressed in special shoes and a shirt promoting autism awareness. Before he began his warmup routine, Ingles stopped to talk with a handful of children on the autism spectrum who were sitting courtside.
“These kids are so awesome,” Joe Ingles said. “You saw it tonight. They’re in their own little worlds at times, but they’re just so awesome. They’re unbelievable kids.”
Then Ingles went to work.
Vivint Smart Home pledged a $5,000 donation for each of Ingles’ first five assists. He had them less than 10 minutes into the game.
He had 11 assists, seven rebounds and eight points as the third quarter ended and his wife, Renae Ingles, joined Jazz owner Gail Miller and others on the court for a message about autism awareness, a moment of celebration for those affected, and a check ceremony for a $1.2 million donation from the Jazz and Vivint Gives Back.
In the fourth, Ingles set out to finish the job. He dished his 12th, 13th, and 14th assists — setting a new career-high in the process. He grabbed his ninth board. With the shot clock expiring late in the quarter, he heaved a 3-pointer that gave him 11 points on the night. All that was left was the final rebound.
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder took Ingles out with about 2 minutes left to play.
“Our guys are more about what the team’s doing,” Snyder said. “Obviously Joe played great. It’s a big night for him in a lot of ways. But I think he feels the same way.”
“There was no chance,” Ingles confirmed. “It’s not me. It’s not our team. We had a lead. Our guys that were in, were in. You guys know I’ve never played for that reason and I never will.”
In the end, a triple-double didn’t matter.
The Jazz came away with a 115-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, moving Utah to 45-30 on the year and inching the team closer to clinching a playoff spot.
“Typical Joe Ingles game,” Snyder said. “His leadership, as much as anything, when things don’t go perfectly, his ability to stay focused and stay in the game is huge for our team.”
Ingles met Renae in the tunnel after the game and embraced.
Then they went home to Jacob.