Apparently the scouting report read that Enes Kanter and Trevor Booker are knockdown shooters. Time and again Anthony Davis closed out on either as if Kyle Korver was setting up shop for a three point attempt. Kanter and Booker would show the ball and watch as the Unibrow floated by as they attacked the basket. Kanter is shooting 30-83 (36.1%) beyond 16 feet this season. Booker is even worse, 12-40 (30%). If there is a shot on the court the Pelicans want the Jazz to take, it is a long jump shot from either of these players.
Instead the Pelicans laid down the red carpet at the rim tonight. No big man (save for Jeff Withey) offered significant resistance all game long. AD flipped the switch in the fourth quarter (sort of), recording two blocks in the final three minutes to help seal the game. Still, the damage was done all night right at the basket as the Jazz scored 68 points in the paint. Every single Pelican on the floor was responsible at one time or another for a defensive breakdown, missed rotation, or simply poor effort.
Lethargic would be the proper word to describe the Pelican investment on defense throughout the evening. Thankfully, the Jazz are a bad basketball team and in a game of runs New Orleans ran last.
Fourth Quarter Fireworks
The quarter began ominously as the Jazz pressed and New Orleans was unable to inbound the ball. The following possession also ended in a turnover, this time by Jimmer Fredette. Utah held a 14 point lead with over 11 minutes remaining. Then the wheels came off.
In three minutes the reserve unit of Jimmer Fredette, Austin Rivers, Dante Cunningham, Ryan Anderson, and Jeff Withey sliced the lead in half with an 12-4 run. While the Jazz ultimately scored on the possession a Jeff Withey spike block and Cunningham diving after a loose ball rattled the crowd in the Smoothie King Center awake. An Austin Rivers And-1 layup capped off the drive and the starters checked back into the game.
Monty Williams elected to close out the game with Jrue Holiday, Austin Rivers, Tyreke Evans, Anthony Davis, and Ryan Anderson. Tyreke Evans had the ball in his hands and responded by accounting for 20 of 29 points over the final eight minutes. On multiple possessions the Pelicans got Evans the ball on the left block and allowed him to create from there instead of putting him 30+ feet from the basket. This is a related set to the one I described after the win in Sacramento in November. This final set up was absolutely gorgeous.
Utah did not give away this game on offense as much as they simply could not get a stop in the fourth quarter. New Orleans posted a 164.3 Offensive Rating in the fourth quarter while holding the Jazz to 92.4. On 17 possessions after the starters checked back in New Orleans scored 29 points, coming up empty just four times.
Tonight is a blowout win for the Jazz if the Pelicans of the past couple weeks are out there shooting the basketball. Thankfully, Ryan Anderson was hot tonight. Anderson shot 10-15 from the field tonight included a welcome 8-12 on uncontested shots. Of note, Utah really shouldn't let Anderson take 12 open shots. Anthony Davis one upped the Flamethrower, posting a perfect 6-6 on uncontested shots while going 12-15 from the floor in route to 31 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
All together the Pelicans went 21-31 tonight on open shots. If New Orleans makes shots like that against Golden State or Dallas the Pels would be riding a five game winning streak. If the inconsistent team we've seen over 24 games shows up we instead are lamenting an unforgivable loss at home to an awful Jazz outfit.
More notes are coming. Let's hear your reactions in the comments.
-The Pelicans tried to move the ball more in the first quarter. It resulted in a number of turnovers. The Pelicans turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter. They would turn it over just seven times the rest of the way.
-Aggressive Jrue did not appear tonight. Holiday attempted just six shots and looked to pass each time he got below the free throw line. Utah did a decent job plugging passing lanes and taking away Anthony Davis, which gummed up the entire process.
-Trey Burke started the game ON FIRE hitting every single attempt for 14 points on just five shots. He scored just two points on four shots the rest of the game while committing three turnovers. At least defensively Holiday flipped the switch.
-Hot Ryan Anderson is one of the best shooters in the entire league, bar none. Zach Lowe calls him a grenade launcher. Joel Meyers likes to use Flamethrower on the broadcast. Both were appropriate this evening.
-Omer Asik had a rough game and played just 20 minutes tonight. Still, 10 points on four shots is efficient offense, although it is hardly pretty. He is hitting 66.7% of his free throws since November 4th.
-Tyreke Evans at home is a completely different player. 22.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 6.8 APG and shooting 51.8% from the field. Look at his home shot chart.
That's a whole lot of green and he is hitting layups near his career rate as well.
-Dante Cunningham is getting a ton of minutes in lately. Tonight he played 30 as Luke Babbitt was getting torched by Gordon Hayward. Monty has the wings switch everything up top and against Utah's motion-centric offense Babbitt was a liability.
-Jeff Withey has played in each of the last three games. Getting about 14 minutes a contest Withey has been able to defend without fouling at Ajinca-like rates. His defense is progressing but still has some ways to go. A reminder, in the sign-and-trade for Tyreke Evans Withey was part of the package. A competent big man at the minimum is gold in a league that always pays for height.
-Good Austin Rivers game! 12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and all the minutes at SG in crunch time. Rivers started the season strong, went into a funk, and finally has come out the other side these past five games. His FT% is creeping toward 70% and he's actually getting to the line at a respectable rate. Once he gets to 75% or so at the line (which probably doesn't happen this year) his game should really progress nicely. He's only 22 years old!
-Anthony Davis had a poor game defensively. One of his worst I can remember this season. Enes Kanter put up a season high 29 points and the majority of those were at the expense of Davis. On the positive side, his jumper at the top of the key is approaching automatic. Davis is shooting 37-68 (54.4%) on long twos (16'+) from elbow to elbow. That's not fair.