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NBA Preview: Pelicans need better production from role players to have legitimate chance of beating Jazz

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A pair of twin towers will battle in the trenches, but expect the game to be won by the stronger cast of perimeter contributors.

NBA: Utah Jazz at New Orleans Pelicans Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Historically, back-to-back games have never been easy on teams, but the most dreaded variety is the road/road set. Well, that’s precisely what’s in front of the Pelicans as they’ll face the Jazz in Salt Lake City tonight.

In what should have resulted in an easy victory against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night turned into a bit of a nail-biter down the stretch of the 4th quarter. The Pelicans led by a comfortable 97-83 margin with 5:37 remaining, yet the Lakers went on to score the game’s next 14 points. Thankfully, New Orleans was able to get back on track and score the contest’s final eight points, but this served as yet another reminder that the Pelicans are a woefully thin team.

During the Laker 14-0 run, the Pelicans missed all eight shot attempts and committed two turnovers. Although Anthony Davis was responsible for three of those tries, two of them came around the rim amid a sea of Blue and Gold. Conversely, Solomon Hill and Dante Cunningham combined to miss four open looks from three-point range and one DC putback at the rim.

Five good shots but zero makes. Sadly, this has been a trend for New Orleans since trading for DeMarcus Cousins.

Usually, the role players have been to blame because they’ve failed to carry their weight on offense. Since the All-Star break, Cousins, Davis and Holiday have combined for 412 points, or 68.2% of the Pelicans total output through six games. Don’t forget that DeMarcus was suspended for one game and fouled out in two others while Jrue Holiday struggled in his first three games flanked by Boogie and The Brow.

Since the inception of the Big 3, Cunningham is averaging 6.7 points, while Hill and Hollis Thompson are a step below at 4.0 points a game. Tim Frazier has contributed just a single field goal in every game but one — against the Pistons he doubled down and tallied two conversions!

Standing opposite the Pelicans, the Utah Jazz have not had such issues. Since the All-Star break, they have five scorers averaging double figures and another five who sit in the 5-10 points a game range. In addition, as to where the new-look Pelicans rank 30th in FG% on open looks and 29th on wide open looks, the Jazz are 11th and 7th respectively during the same time frame.

So, who am I going to be watching Monday night?

The role players.

Against the Lakers, the Pelicans could rely on the Big 3 and E’Twaun Moore exclusively, but don’t expect that formula to work in Salt Lake City. The Jazz have the 4th best record in the Western Conference, and with Gordon Hayward enjoying the best season of his career and a starting lineup of George Hill, Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood all chipping in on a consistent basis, New Orleans is going to need at least a couple of guys to emerge from the shadows to walk away with the very much unexpected victory.

Geaux Pelicans!!!

What: Pelicans at Jazz

Where: Vivant Smart Home Arena — Salt Lake City, UT

When: March 6, 2017 at 8:00 PM Central

How: Fox Sports New Orleans, Root, 99.5 FM WRNO