Whipped quickly and often out of the gates, the New Orleans Pelicans made a good charge in the 2nd half, but unfortunately they failed to come all the way back from a 20-point halftime hole to lose 128-120 to the Utah Jazz.
Honestly, it felt the high point of the night’s matchup for the majority of the contest probably came about 15 minutes before tip-off when we learned Rudy Gobert would miss the game due to a sprained right ankle.
The Jazz raced out to a 14-0 lead. They made everything they looked at, hitting their first four three-pointers. And it certainly didn’t help matters that the Pelicans offered little resistance defensively from the get-go. Not only did Donovan Mitchell look like an All-Star but so did Bojan Bogdanovic. New Orleans gave up a grand total of 44 points in the first quarter to Utah, a team that had entered the game ranked 27th in the league in scoring at 104.9 points per game.
On the flip side, the Pelicans countered Utah’s first half 55.6 field goal percentage with a meager 35.3 FG% of their own. Brandon Ingram couldn’t find the mark, Lonzo Ball started 1-7, and Jrue Holiday wasn’t able to make much of an impact either. Jaxson Hayes, the inexperienced rookie center, was the team’s leading scorer at halftime with 13 points on 5-7 shooting.
“Yeah, they shot the ball well but we weren’t into them at all,” said Alvin Gentry in postgame. “They didn’t feel us defensively. And then we didn’t shoot the ball very well. We missed five lay-ups in the first quarter of the game.”
Both team’s started a little slowly in the the third quarter. New Orleans could have made things interesting more quickly. Yet three minutes into the second half, Ingram whiffed a lay-up in transition. Ball then air-balled a jumper from mid-range a few minutes later. The Pelicans remained a step slow as they had been all night long. Utah was still winning most of the 50/50 balls. All of those prized deflections were somehow winding up Jazz scores... And yet the Pelicans found themselves down just 10 points entering the final frame.
After winning the third quarter 34-24, New Orleans made Utah sweat more than they would have liked the rest of the way. The new problem was that the Pelicans couldn’t manage to get over the hump. The offense was clicking, but they simply couldn’t come up with enough stops.
New Orleans stayed within striking distance throughout the final 12 minutes until a Holiday three cut the deficit to just five at 122-117. Then Ingram followed that up with a three-ball of his own to whittle the margin down to four points with 37.9 seconds remaining to make things really interesting. However, the Pelicans failed to come up with a very key defensive rebound. Mitchell missed a shot at the rim, but Utah grabbed the offensive rebound. Mitchell, who shouldn’t have been so zealous to shoot again, missed a three a few seconds later, but once again the Jazz came away with the board. Bogdanovic went to the line to push Utah’s lead back to six and Holiday wound up missing the Pelicans next shot, effectively ended the game.
“It was a four-point game at one stage right near the end,” said Gentry. “I appreciate us doing that, but when you play a quality team — especially on their home court, you have to get off to a good start. We have to do a better job of keeping the ball in front of us. We played one of the premier guards in Donovan, but we’ve got to do a better job of keeping him in front of us.”
Credit the Jazz for finishing though. They got to the free throw line numerous more times (33 attempts for the Jazz vs. 20 for the Pelicans), and hey, Donovan Mitchell is a baller despite those final twenty seconds of the contest. Utah’s shooting guard finished the night with 37 points, seven rebounds, six threes and five assists.
Brandon Ingram finished with a team-high 33 points and also added four rebounds, five assists and four threes — an impressive line considering he had just eight points on 11 shots at halftime. He was crazy good during the final 24 minutes as was Jrue Holiday, who finished with 28 points, five rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks. Jrue hit three treys of which two came late in the fourth, giving New Orleans a chance to steal the victory.
Off the bench, Lonzo Ball was easily the most impactful reserve. He finished with 13 points, four rebounds and four assists, but I was most drawn to his improved assertiveness. He didn’t settle for jumpers the entire night and he also showed a little chemistry with Hayes in the lob department. This is something to monitor going forward because there’s a few of us who feel Ball will most benefit by playing alongside a high-flying big — and why we can’t wait for Zion Williamson to return.
Chalk this one up to not having the requisite energy and focus at the start. Gentry mentioned that games aren’t lost in the first quarter to media too, but I’m sure that few would fully agree with the motto tonight. Trying to steal the victory in a difficult environment is damn near impossible if the deficit simply gets too large.
As an FYI: The Pelicans are 0-5 when I’m on recap duty so I’ll warn everyone right now that tomorrow has my name on the wall as well. Good thing the Pelicans are hopping on a plane tonight to fly to Los Angeles where they’ll face the Clippers — and likely Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — tomorrow at 8:00 PM.
Sigh, sorry everyone, but my dastardly streak must end at some point, right?!