Tonight the New Orleans Pelicans will play their fourth and final game of this west coast road trip before returning to New Orleans.
The Pelicans are coming off their worst performance of the season in a 117-97 drubbing that was even worse the score indicated. Their opponent tonight, the Utah Jazz, has been a pleasant surprise so far this season. The Jazz are coming off of a loss to the Golden State Warriors on the road. Impressive wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns have proven Utah to be nothing like the pushover they were last season. Their new coach, Quin Snyder, is intense.
As usual, playing in the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City is no easy task. The Jazz currently sport a 3-2 home record. Their only two losses came at the hands of the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks, two of the top teams in the NBA.
The Jazz rank 17th in the NBA in Offensive Efficiency at 108.0 compared to the Pelicans fifth ranked 111.3. Defensively, Utah ranks 27th in the league allowing 112.8 points per 100 possessions, whereas New Orleans ranks 17th at 107.2. Being a young team, the Jazz have a tougher time with turning the ball over (23rd in the league) as compared to the Pelicans (1st). A key to the game will be forcing the Jazz into turnovers and capitalizing on those transition opportunities.
Surprisingly, for a young team the Jazz are good at not giving the opponent many opportunities at the charity stripe. While New Orleans has been much maligned for their Opponent Free Throw Attempt Rate - currently sixth worst in the NBA at 0.254, Utah (0.190) allows the fourth fewest free throws to their opposition. This means that getting to the free throw line, a difficult task for the Pelicans already, will be even more difficult in their matchup versus the Jazz.
Last year, the Pelican and Jazz split the season series 2-2, each winning their home games in the process.
Check out the SB Nation Utah Jazz blog for their perspective.
Keys to Victory
Rebound: So far this season, the Jazz grab a higher percentage of offensive rebounds (26.6) as compared to the Pelicans (25.5). The Pelicans (27.7) also allow a higher Opponent Offensive Rebounding Percentage than the Jazz (25.9).
This is not a good combo.
Hopefully, the presence of Omer Asik (crosses fingers) will flip those numbers because if there is one thing the Pelicans cannot allow to have happen, especially on the road, is to give a young team extra opportunities to score after a miss.
Take Advantage of the Matchups: There are only eight guards in the NBA that have started at least 10 games and have posted a Defensive Rating of 113 or worse. The Jazz start two of those five. Trey Burke (114 DRtg) and Alec Burks (114 DRtg) have to guard someone, presumably Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon. They must dominate their matchups.
Anthony Davis will do his thing, but the Pelicans trio of guards Holiday, Gordon and Tyreke Evans need to abuse their defenders tonight.
Drown Out the Music: The Jazz are young, energetic team with a top tier home court advantage. The game will be played on a Saturday night, so the crowd will be there and will bring the noise. The Pelicans are the more talented and experienced squad and if they get the chance to put the Jazz and their crowd out of the game, the Pelicans need to take advantage. The Pelicans cannot afford to let this team hang around for four quarters.
TV: League Pass
Radio: WWL 105.3
Time: 8:00 PM Central