New Orleans’ ancestral NBA team in Utah is pretty good, even without their best player in uniform.
The Pelicans are 6-3 in their last 9 but surely out of the playoff race with Denver and Portland currently tied for the 8th spot in the west and sitting 4.5 games ahead of New Orleans.
AD vs. Gobert
Anthony Davis played exceptionally well against Defensive Player of the Year hopeful Rudy Gobert. Davis finished the night with 36 points, 17 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks and kept the Pels in the game hitting jumper after jumper over Gobert.
The two big men battled for rebounds in the paint and each blocked the other’s shot a couple times in a great 1-on-1 matchup. Gobert filled up the stat sheet, too, with 20 points, 19 rebounds and 5 blocks; and with no Derrick Favors (10th missed game in a row because of a knee contusion) or DeMarcus Cousins (2nd missed game in a row, ankle), it was just them out there, except for a few Alexis Ajinca and Jeff Withey minutes.
AD went off for 16 points in the 2nd quarter and made 11-of-14 free throws in 41 minutes on the second night of a back to back. That’s good stuff... no, that’s great stuff. It was his work (and some help from Jrue Holiday) in that second quarter that prevented the game from becoming a laugher, as the Jazz pushed their lead up to 18 before Davis started getting buckets non-stop. He had 24 and 8 rebounds at the half and somehow the good guys were down only 5. The deficit could have been even less had Jrue Holiday made two free throws from a clear-path foul and if the Pelicans could have then tacked on another bucket after that. But, hey, it wasn’t meant to be.
Two Joes, Two Hills and a Hood
So, with those two giants setting the tone, who were the others to make the winning difference? For the Pelicans, Solomon Hill had 11 points and 8 rebounds. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when Solomon Hill attacks with his dribble — often in transition — good things happen. He flashed some of those skills and assertiveness tonight at times. I would love to see him integrate that more.
Jrue Holiday finished with 19 points and 5 assists as the starting shooting guard, Tim Frazier offered 6 points and 6 assists in 22 minutes and Jordan Crawford took 15 shots to score 12 points. Really though, it felt like Davis carried all the water tonight.
Meanwhile, the Jazz feature two studs in Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert but also have a deep, experienced and versatile group of others who fill in as needed: see this “Who Makes the Jazz a Big Three?” by our friends at SLC Dunk for proof. They get regular contributions from George Hill, Joe Ingles, Joe Johnson, Rodney Hood and others, and it was that crew who got it done tonight, especially from behind the 3-point line. Ingles made all 5 3s he took (17 points), while Hood (20 points), Hill (17 points) and Johnson (14 points) made a combined 9 more.
The Jazz collected 11 offensive rebounds, too, with former Nola big man Jeff Withey notably grabbing a few — some of these seemed like lucky bounces as opposed to burly work under the hoop. Utah also had 27 assists, with ball movement coming from coherent player movement and appropriate extra passes when doubles came. Maybe it’s the collection of talent, youngsters, and veterans but generally, I’d call the Jazz “professional.”
The Pelicans’ final homestand of the season gets started on March 29 with a game against Dallas, who are still in shock from a Russell Westbrook typhoon that hit them Monday night in Texas. New Orleans has four at home, then finishes the season with four on the road.