Omer Asik was horrendous and simply cannot be played for long periods of time right now. Gentry's system magnifies all of his weaknesses without capitalizing on any of his strengths and it showed. Further, especially when a pairing like Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson is available, his presence on the court allowed Jazz head coach Quin Snyder to play Rudy Gobert. Gobert essentially ignored Asik all game long and planted himself firmly in the paint. Once Gentry went small the court opened up and Gobert turned into a non-factor.
That said, let's recap what else happened tonight.
A sloppy slow first half
In August when the schedule was released this game had the feeling of a schedule loss. A long flight from Los Angeles the night before, losing an hour in the time change, and a rested Utah Jazz team in the altitude of Salt Lake City is not a recipe for success. New Orleans came out flat and slow in the first quarter. Eric Gordon couldn't make a layup despite multiple opportunities. In fact during the first quarter Anthony Davis accounted for 14 of the Pelicans 16 points as his teammates were lethargic at best.
On the opposite side Bird Writes hero Joe ingles could not miss, making his first three attempts behind the arc. Midway through the second quarter Ingles and Toney Douglas got into a bit of a scuffle. Ingles nearly struck Douglas with an elbow getting into a triple threat position and Douglas bodied Ingles out on the ensuing baseline drive. Shoves were exchanged, Trevor Booker (unsurprisingly) got involved, and in the end Dante Cunningham received a technical foul for reasons unknown. The Jazz lead at one point grew to 21.
Thankfully in the final four minutes of the second quarter the Pelicans finally got the pace up and some flow into their offense, ending the half on a 14-2 run. Anthony Davis was the recipient of both alley-oops and dump offs and finished the first half with an impressive 21 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block. Davis showed no ill effects of the knee contusion he sustained on Friday night, which is excellent news moving forward.
On the negative end of the ledger both Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson continued to be absolutely frigid. They combined to shoot 0-9 from the field in the first half, a troubling sign after both were ineffective on Friday. Gordon has not been terribly consistent this season so a bad game or two isn't terribly surprising. Anderson, on the other hand, was scorching hot going into Thanksgiving, scoring at least 20 points in five consecutive games while shooting over 50% in four straight. Did the menu at Thanksgiving get the Flamethrower off?
Unable to finish the job in the second half
Once again New Orleans was slow out of the locker rooms. Omer Asik capped off his awful night with a missed dunk from point blank range and promptly found a seat on the bench for the rest of the night. The Pelicans immediately went on a run and cut the Jazz lead to seven. Eric Gordon made the team's first 3-pointer with 7:35 remaining in the third quarter. No, that is not a misprint.
The third quarter continued as a series of runs and answers by Utah. New Orleans would slice into the Jazz lead and then go on a cold stretch. After getting the deficit down to seven Utah pushed it back out to 18 behind Trey Burke and Alec Burks. Dante Cunningham went on a personal five point run to bring the lead back down to 13 but an AD turnover and Burke corner three made the Jazz lead 16 going into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter began ominously. Jrue Holiday quickly got to the line and converted two free throws. Holiday then committed turnovers on consecutive possessions and the Jazz pushed their lead back to 21. Holiday continued the turnover parade, tallying three in the span of just over a minute. The idea that Holiday is better served as an off guard with Tyreke Evans or Ish Smith handling the primary creating duties continues to gain steam.
Anthony Davis was having none of that. AD checked in and the Pelicans quickly cut into the Utah lead, holding the Jazz scoreless for four minutes of game time. Toney Douglas canned a pair of threes and Ryan Anderson finally found the range behind the arc to cut the lead to single digits with 5:47 remaining. A pair of AD free throws shrunk the lead to six and there was a chance to seize momentum.
Sadly it was not to be. Eric Gordon missed a relatively open layup while Gordon Hayward banked in a wild runner in the lane on the following possession. Failing to get into the flow of the offense the Pelicans went mismatch hunting in the post and a errant entry pass by Alonzo Gee resulted in a turnover.
Tonight Anthony Davis was incredible but his teammates hung him out to dry. After a three game winning streak where Anderson, Gordon, and even Ish Smith were chipping in big scoring nights the Pelicans could not find other options on offense tonight. AD's big night was wasted and that's a shame. Davis ended the night with 36 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals. Ish Smith was the only other Pelican in double figures, scoring 13 points on an inefficient 14 shots.
The Pelicans travel home and will have two days off to rest and recover before encountering another back-to-back, their sixth of the season. First they will welcome the Memphis Grizzlies before playing the Houston Rockets on the road Wednesday night. Come back soon Tyreke.