Coming into Wednesday night's game, the Pelicans and Jazz are swapping roles bestowed upon them during the preseason. New Orleans was supposed to be the young up and coming team trying to climb up the Western Conference ladder, and the Jazz were going to be a younger, frisky team that wasn't quite ready but you knew sooner or later they'd be tall enough to ride the ride.
Instead, here we are. The Jazz are sitting at a game over .500 through 51 games and in the 8th spot in the playoff picture, while the Pelicans are trending downward. Utah's won seven in a row and eight of their last nine; New Orleans snapped a four game losing streak Monday night in Minnesota.
In the teams' first matchup in Salt Lake City, Utah won easily 101-84. New Orleans' poor night from behind the three point line, 5-17, spoiled one of Anthony Davis' finer performances of the season: 36 points (on 18 shots), 11 rebounds, 3 blocks and he hit on 12 of his 15 free throw attempts. C'est la vie.
Utah got ample contributions from just about all of its players. Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and Trevor Booker each had at least 13 points, Rudy Gobert had 9 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks and Alec Burks led all Jazz with 21 points off the bench. Of the 10 Utah players who took the court that night, only Trey Lyles had a negative plus/minus number. I get why a lot of the guys here have included Utah in so many mock trade scenarios, there's a lot of talent here.
However, as Pelican fans no doubt can empathize with, despite Utah's talent, the group does have its shortcomings. The Jazz rank 26th in points, 22nd in rebounding -- only one behind New Orleans -- and 29th in assists.
On the flip side, they only trail the Spurs in points allowed and are a top-10 team in three point shooting. Basically Utah's your quintessential .500 team: they do some key things well, and others not so much.
I see this is as a game New Orleans can steal from a playoff contender. Utah will be coming off a back-to-back in Dallas and they struggle on the road. Coming into the Dallas game, the Jazz are 8-15 on the road and New Orleans plays some of its best offensive ball in the Smoothie King Center.