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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans must contain Donovan Mitchell to beat Utah Jazz

Can the Pelicans get back to their winning ways in one of the harshest arenas for away teams?

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

For a second and final time this season, the New Orleans Pelicans (18-18) will travel to Salt Lake City to face the Utah Jazz (16-21). The 8:00 p.m. Central tip-off will air on Fox Sports New Orleans and over the airwaves on WRNO 99.5 FM.

In their first go-round, the Jazz prevailed 114-108 as Donovan Mitchell exploded for 41 points — easily a career best for the awesome rookie. Also, if you may recall, Anthony Davis had to leave that game in the fourth quarter following a non-contact injury, which later was determined to be a left abductor strain.

At the time, Utah, winners of four straight, was on a roll and New Orleans, who entered with several consecutive losses, was not. However, well before Davis exited, the Pelicans had a 16-point advantage over the Jazz early in the third quarter. Just as in a number of other losses during the same period, New Orleans managed to let a double-digit lead completely evaporate and were forced to take home the disappointing loss.

ICYMI: Rudy Gobert will miss the game due to a sprained PCL in his left knee.

Three Keys to Victory

Stop Donovan Mitchell, duh! Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. New Orleans defenders should be better prepared for the rookie phenom, but they’ve still got to follow through with the game plan on the court. One has to think Jrue Holiday will draw the starting defensive assignment, and this time, he shouldn’t allow Mitchell to get into an early rhythm by ducking under perimeter screens.

Bring good energy and maintain discipline. If New Orleans puts forth one of their better efforts, they have a decent chance of grabbing the important road victory. The Jazz have struggled since these teams last met, losers of 10 out of 14 games, but they’ve only played four home games during that span — losing to the Rockets and Thunder, while beating the Spurs and Cavaliers. Regardless of injuries or previous records, the Jazz are a tough out at their place so the Pels must be firing on all cylinders to escape with a win.

Force Utah off the three-point line. The Jazz are tied with the Celtics for possessing the seventh highest three-point field goal percentage at home. As Alvin Gentry recently lamented to the media, it’s vital for the Pelicans to defend the arc against all opponents. Let’s see some magic!

Geaux Pels!

What: New Orleans Pelicans at Utah Jazz

Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena

When: January 3, 2018, 8:00 p.m. Central

How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM