For a while there it looked like tonight's game in Utah would go the same way as the Pelicans' past two games: New Orleans gets ahead early but ultimately sees the wheels come off and lose it in the fourth quarter. But this wasn't Chicago nor was this Portland. No sir, tonight these Pelicans didn't repeat the sins of their past two defeats and the result was a much needed road win.
Ryan Anderson was instrumental in this New Orleans victory. Anderson scored 24 points by hitting five of his 10 shots tonight and tallied four rebounds and two steals. But it was his aggression and ability to get to the line a career high 13 times (making all 13 of his free throws certainly helped the Pelicans' cause tonight) that lifted New Orleans to victory. His 5-10 field goal shooting coupled with his 13-13 free throw means that nearly 80 percent of the shots Anderson took tonight went in the basket.
The script from the two teams' first matchup three weeks ago was totally flipped tonight. In the first game, Anthony Davis was tremendous but got next to no help from his teammates. Tonight Davis' performance (17 points and 13 rebounds) wasn't as stellar as the first one, but fortunately his teammates were there to pick up the slack. Jrue Holiday, who didn't make a single field goal in the first game, hit six of his 10 shots en route to a 15 point, four assist and, most importantly, zero turnover night. Eric Gordon came up big with 19 points, including four threes in the first quarter. And Tyreke Evans, who obviously wasn't available in the first game in November, had a nice, albeit inefficient, night: 11 points (on 4-12 shooting), four rebounds, five assists and two steals.
In a rather back and forth game all night long, it was the Pelican defense that stood tall in the fourth quarter and allowed New Orleans to get out of Salt Lake City with a win tonight. Over the game's last 12 minutes, Utah was held to 15 points. After Utah took a timeout at the 6:54 mark to a Pelican timeout with 2:18 remaining in the game, here's what Utah's offense produced in that near five minute stretch:
- Four turnovers
- One field goal out of five attempts
- Two points
From there Utah would only score five more points, two of which were scored well after the game had been decided. During that game clinching 9-2 run the Pelicans went on where Utah missed four of their five shots, three were from 24 feet or beyond. New Orleans did an excellent job tonight of not giving Utah good looks when they needed one last run to try and get back in the game.
Two things that killed New Orleans in their first game against Utah was poor rebounding and three point shooting. In November's contest, the Pelicans were -14 in rebounding and hit 29 percent of their threes compared to Utah's even 50 percent. Tonight the two were a Pelican advantage: New Orleans was +2 in rebounding and converted 48 percent of their threes, while Utah, who is a top-10 team in three point percentage, made a mere 35 percent.
Jeff Withey! The former Pelican fittingly got his first start of the season against his former team tonight as Utah experiments with lineups to fill the void left by Rudy Gobert's knee injury. Withey scored four points, collected three rebounds, blocked a shot and recorded a steal in 17 minutes of action. His limited minutes can be owed him picking up four fouls.
The Derrick Favors-Anthony Davis battle was a good one. Favors more than held his own against Davis and posted a 22 point, 7 rebound, 5 assist night. The Favors, Gordon Hayward, Gobert frontcourt is quietly one of the better ones in the league.
In 20 combined minutes, Dante Cunningham, Alexis Ajinca and Ish Smith combined for one point and three rebounds.
Gordon Hayward is dreamy.